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Ottawa Senators Triumph Over Nashville Predators 3-2

It’s the first regulation win against the Preds in thirteen contests

Ottawa Senators v Nashville Predators Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images

The Ottawa Senators were looking to send the dads home happy with a win over the Nashville Predators in the second half of a two-game road trip. Their strong sixty-minute effort along with, believe it or not, some good luck, was enough to secure a 3-2 victory — their first road victory against Nashville since 2014.

The Sens opened the afternoon in a similar way to their previous outing against the Dallas Stars, outshooting Nashville 9-2 to start. They did a particularly good job of being aggressive in the offensive and neutral zones, forcing turnovers and icings to ensure they had the puck more often. A good 2-3 decent chances alone came from an offensive possession following Erik Brännström breaking up a 3-on-2 rush the other way.

The special teams also had a strong start — with Shane Pinto in the box for high-sticking, Tim Stützle, Travis Hamonic, and Jake Sanderson expertly killed off the final 30 seconds, while Brady Tkachuk found himself with a few of his trademark chances on Ottawa’s following power-play.

A pair of strong saves from Cam Talbot closed out the frame scoreless with shots 14-8 OTT. As an aside, it feels like the goaltending has been inconsistent all year. One night they’ll let in 3 goals on 15 shots and give the team little opportunity for two points, while on others they’ll stop 28 of 30 only for the guy at the other end to steal the win anyway. That first period was at least a sign that the first scenario shouldn’t come to pass.

The second period featured an embarrassing moment for Thomas Chabot. After being shaken up from a hit, he returned to the bench frustrated. After sitting down, he swung his stick to break against the glass, perhaps not knowing Hamonic was sitting directly to his right. The stick broke and clipped Hamonic in the head, who already had been laboring after taking a hit himself. It’s normal for players to take out their frustration but they’ve got to be aware of their surroundings. The broken end of that stick is sharp — if it catches Hamonic under the visor it could lead to an unsightly injury, but fortunately, he was good to stay in the game.

Talbot was busy during the first half of the period, but a Stützle chance followed by an Austin Watson fight against Jeremy Lauzon appeared to stop the bleeding and get things back on track, with both teams trading power-plays once again without a goal.

With all of the scoring chances both teams have had, you probably were caught off guard by the game’s first goal regardless of which team you’re cheering for. A wrist shot from Yakov Trenin made it 1-0 Nashville after Brännström lost position to Mark Jankowski.

It’s yet another situation in which he and Chabot are on the ice dominating the shot count but allowing more goals than expected. Is it just bad luck, or are there certain defensive skills that simply are not at their disposal?

Mentally, it now becomes something of a challenge, because even though it’s a one-goal game, the team has been one of the worst in the league at finishing on their chances, and they’re up against one of the best goalies in the NHL in Juuse Saros. Today, however, they rose to the occasion.

With a late power-play, came a rare lucky break. Mark Kastelic — yes, the team is that injured — threw a hit on Lauzon, which shook up the latter, taking him out of the play. The Senators capitalized accordingly, with Giroux finishing the play for his 12th of the year.

With the game tied after 40 minutes and Ottawa up in shots 25-20, they executed the best strategy they could with the lineup they had to work with. Kill time with the bottom six, and generate chances with the top six. After a couple of low-event shifts from the depth forwards, Tkachuk - Stützle - Giroux quickly took the puck into the Predators’ end and went to work, forcing Saros to do the same.

Next up was the Alex DeBrincat line, and he’s struggled to score this year but he found success by finding Hamonic last game with a fantastic pass. Clearly, the wheels have been spinning up there since then, like “how can I employ a similar tactic to get the goal myself? I’d have to find a player in the same spot but on the other tea-wait, I’ve got it.”

That’s a much-deserved break for DeBrincat, and unlucky for Dante Fabbro, who was sacrificed to the hockey gods for the sake of regression to the mean.

Nashville would then get a power-play off a DeBrincat roughing minor, only for Filip Forsberg to throw it away by boarding Nikita Zaitsev. At the tail end of the 4-on-4, Drake Batherson found himself on a breakaway off a feed from Tkachuk, and absolutely froze Saros with a soft shot over the glove. TSN commentators called it “Datsyukian”, and anytime you make a Nashville goalie look like that, it’s an acceptable use of the term.

Right after that, however, Cam Talbot saw another shot go through him, courtesy of Nino Niederreiter, which cut the lead back to one.

Ottawa did a good job defending for the rest of the game for the most part and got a four-minute powerplay after Derick Brassard was high-sticked by Matt Duchene, in the biggest demonstration of violence between members of the 2017-18 Ottawa Senators since the fight between Bobby Ryan and Kyle Turris a few years back. And wouldn’t you know it, that happened against Nashville, too!

There was a bit of a scare with a shorthanded 3-on-2 but Talbot held strong, and the Sens held on to win by a 3-2 score while outshooting the Predators 33-29. They’re now 5-2-1 in their last 8 games, not bad at all.

Game Notes

  • Today’s offense was brought to you not in part, but entirely by Ottawa’s top-six. In terms of NaturalStatTrick’s 5-on-5 expected goals, both of Ottawa’s top two lines finished over 70%, while Brassard’s 21.88% was the best out of the bottom six. It’s a sign that a call-up or two from Belleville could be in order.
  • Even though Cam Talbot let in a couple of goals he’d probably want back, his overall body of work was good enough for a team that scored three goals today. The defense allowed under 30 shots, and Talbot allowed under 3 goals. That’s a recipe for success in the long run.
  • Erik Brännström being on the ice for both goals against would point to him having a bad game, but it’s worth looking at the quality of shots that wound up in the back of the net. Both were, at the very least, not very dangerous compared to some of the other chances Talbot stopped. Defencemen are constantly making mistakes, both small and large which lead to shots against, and in my opinion, it’s more worthwhile to look at the quality and quantity of chances against to judge a player’s defensive ability. In Brännström’s case, he led the club with an 85.65 5v5 xGF%, and his partnership with Nick Holden has been by far the most underrated piece of Ottawa’s roster throughout the season.
  • Also, how cool is it that we have Chabot, Brännström, and this guy on the left side:

Stats:

  • From NaturalStatTrick

Up Next:

  • The Sens are back home Monday, Dec. 12th, for a 7:30 PM EST game against the last-place Anaheim Ducks. Let’s see if they can score a 5-on-5 goal with their own sticks this time!