Now, this is more like it.
This is exactly the kind of performance you want to see from an Ottawa Senators squad that’s missing Drake Batherson, Josh Norris, and Connor Brown. A strong 60-minute effort which, while far from perfect, had all of the key ingredients necessary to take another two points from Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers.
Fantastic goaltending? Check.
Secondary scoring? Check.
Bounces going their way? Check.
A süperstar performance? German.
Early on in the game, both teams would trade penalties — a hooking call on Warren Foegele was followed by an Ottawa bench minor for too many men, and both PK units did a good job in preventing any sort of offense from either power-play.
After Ottawa’s penalty expired, Tim Stützle would lose the puck in the offensive zone, but a last-minute lunge on the backcheck foiled the Oilers’ odd-man rush, and seconds later...
This is why we’re all so excited about this kid’s potential. His production has been great for a 20-year-old on a weaker team, but what’s really been awe-inspiring has been his willingness to make a difference in each and every square inch of the rink. A desperate dive in his own end saves a potential Edmonton goal, and Chabot’s subsequent tally is created by Stützle going right up to the blue paint and causing mischief in front of Mikko Koskinen.
Also, you absolutely love to see Chabot’s shooting percentage regressing to the mean. He deserves at least a couple more of those if you ask me.
All this, however, preceded a mistimed line change, followed by the Matt Murray Special.
McDavid answers right away with one Murray needs to have. pic.twitter.com/DJqyHKJWtB— Alex Metzger (@nhlsensandstuff) February 1, 2022
On one hand, this is the best hockey player on the planet, and of all the things he can do, a slapshot from the faceoff dot is the last thing one would expect here. However, with the Senators’ offense being effectively neutralized by their injuries and lack of high-end depth, Murray would need to be much better to give them a chance at a victory.
Right off the bat in the second period, Murray was given numerous chances to bounce back by his team, and he delivered. Leon Draisaitl had a breakaway opportunity in the first few minutes, and the Senators were extremely lucky to see the puck wobble on his stick, severely limiting the threat level of the shot.
Later, after Murray stood tall on the penalty kill with Erik Brännström in the box for hooking, the Oilers continued to swarm the Senators in their own end, but the latter did a good job preventing shots on goal, and Stützle then proceeded to challenge Koskinen with two shots from in-tight, the latter of which was created by him stripping the puck from Draisaitl. Koskinen’s strong effort was answered by Murray, who stopped McDavid on a breakaway.
With 4:27 left in the period, Evan Bouchard would take a hooking penalty on Nick Paul, and while Ottawa’s “top power-play unit” looked much better than before, they couldn’t really threaten Koskinen before subbing out for the second unit. Brännström took advantage of some extra space to move up for a good attempt on Koskinen, and Paul was all over the rebound. Even with half of the top-six out, the Senators take a 2-1 lead thanks to their second power-play unit.
With the Sens up 2-1, they caught another good break, as the Oilers failed to get a shot on net on a 3-on-1 rush, with McDavid being one of three.
Ottawa killed off their third straight power-play to start the third period, but the Oilers had several good chances right after. Murray had to be solid once again and continued to more than make up for that 1-1 goal in the first.
Oh Matt Murray! Robbing Evander Kane multiple times! pic.twitter.com/RIQJCQPkDp— Lalime's Martian (@LalimesMartian) February 1, 2022
Unfortunately, he couldn’t keep the team afloat in the third for long. After Chabot mishandled the puck on a rush chance, the Oilers brought the puck back the other way, and Derek Ryan made a nice pass to the trailing Darnell Nurse, who made no mistake on a wide-open net.
Darnell Nurse is the trailer and it's 2-2. pic.twitter.com/tAqngkTi2z— Alex Metzger (@nhlsensandstuff) February 1, 2022
It confirms what I’ve been seeing tonight — the biggest issue for Ottawa has been an inability to consistently create chances off the rush, as well as on extended possession in the offensive zone. A Tkachuk turnover on a rush opportunity resulted in an Oilers’ breakaway earlier in the game, and a similar mistake costs the team their lead.
Halfway through the period, a fight occurred between Oilers defenseman William Lagesson and who I thought was Austin Watson. It was only after seeing the entirety of the Ottawa jersey when I realized it was actually TIM STUTZLE WHAT IS GOING ON I DON’T EVEN
Tim Stützle gets into his first career scrap.— Everyday Sens (@EverydaySens) February 1, 2022
Not a great time for it, but entertaining. pic.twitter.com/kAdUlhEMwX
At the time I thought this to be a tad reckless on the part of our best forward — and I still do. However, I can also acknowledge that it only adds to his legendary performance tonight. More on that later.
Nurse would give the 500 fans at the Canadian Tire Centre a last-minute scare, but his shot was blocked and regulation time expired a few seconds later with the score at two apiece.
Ottawa began the overtime period with possession, and Alex Formenton promptly dashed up the ice on a 2-on-1 with Paul, but the former fanned on his shot attempt. Tkachuk would get another chance on a 2-on-1, but Koskinen kept it out of the net. Draisaitl and Zach Hyman combined for a 2-on-1 the other way, and after Murray stopped them, Tkachuk and Stützle followed suit to no avail.
McDavid then stepped onto the ice, and matching up against him was Paul, who did an amazing job staying between him and Murray, preventing him from maneuvering around him to get to the net.
The puck would go the other way, and with Koskinen down on his pads to take away a low attempt from the side of the net, it was none other than Tim Stützle who quickly changed his angle and fired the puck over the shoulder to give Ottawa the 3-2 win in overtime.
Boy, when people called the 2020 NHL Entry Draft “franchise-altering” for the Senators, they weren’t kidding.
- Ottawa’s best player tonight? It definitely went back-and-forth between Tim Stützle and Matt Murray. The new number-one center was frequently the most dangerous player out there and came as close to a Gordie Howe hat-trick as he probably ever will in his career. As for Murray, he stopped 37 of 39 tonight and was a stud on the penalty kill, which went 3-for-3. He’s now 4-0-2 in his last 6 games with a .939 save percentage in that span. Can he keep up this level of play while remaining healthy? That would be enormous for the team going forward.
- Nick Paul also deserves mad props, not just for being a crucial source of secondary scoring, but also for holding off McDavid in OT. Keep this man in Ottawa at all costs, Pierre.
- According to NaturalStatTrick, Nick Holden and Artem Zub were primarily matched up against McDavid and his linemates, and the pair did a fantastic job with a 63.51 expected goals share at 5-on-5? What?!?!
- On the second half of a back-to-back, the Senators will finally get to play against a team that’s had as much trouble with COVID-19 as they’ve had — they’ll visit the New York Islanders on February 1st, at 7:30 PM EST.