After falling 3-2 in overtime to the Boston Bruins yesterday, the Ottawa Senators were hoping to bounce back against another tough opponent in the New York Rangers, who came into today’s game 31-13-5, good for third in the Metropolitan Division. Another strong effort from a depleted squad was for naught as they fell by a 2-1 score.
Tim Stützle was eager to make an impact after being screwed over in the team’s last outing against the Rangers, as just under five minutes in, a turnover forced by the pairing of Nick Holden and Nikita Zaitsev created a 2-on-1. Stützle, with a generous amount of time and space given to him by Jacob Trouba, ripped the puck past Igor Shesterkin top-shelf to give Ottawa a 1-0 lead.
The Senators’ lead would not last long, however, as 2020 first-rounder Braden Schneider found Ryan Strome in front of the Ottawa net, who made no mistake to tie the game at one.
Ryan Strome pops home a rebound and it's 1-1 pic.twitter.com/FcOH12iwYj— Alex Metzger (@nhlsensandstuff) February 20, 2022
While the Rangers looked like the better team early on, Ottawa turned things around in the second half of the period, relying on their forecheck to turn pucks over and generate tons of shot attempts. Unfortunately, they missed the net on quite a few of these. Tyler Ennis couldn’t hit the net. Brady Tkachuk couldn’t either. Chris Tierney missed the puck entirely. The good news is while all this was going on, the puck stayed out of the Senators’ end for a significant amount of time. The period ended with Ottawa up in shots 8-7.
The second period was not nearly as kind to Ottawa as the one before. Despite holding the Rangers back for a bit, they were tasked with killing off a Zaitsev hooking penalty 7:48 into the frame, and after Filip Gustavsson made multiple stops on Mika Zibanejad, Artemi Panarin was able to beat him with a slapshot to give New York a 2-1 lead.
Panarin on the powerplay rips one to make it 2-1 pic.twitter.com/MNAGM2fQ9P— Lalime's Martian (@LalimesMartian) February 20, 2022
Between his goal and David Pastrnak’s overtime winner yesterday therein lies the biggest issue the Senators are currently facing in these games, and it’s one out of the control of both the coaching staff and the players. That is, no matter how sound your structure is, there will always be moments in which the opponent can take advantage, and Ottawa is currently lacking an abundance of players that can do that frequently. Nick Paul, Tyler Ennis, and Adam Gaudette are good players, but most teams have similar guys, on top of their stars.
The Rangers continued to dominate after Panarin’s tally, and it wasn’t until the final three minutes of the period that we saw Ottawa could potentially tie this hockey game. Despite trailing in shots 21-11 at one point, they managed to bring the deficit to 22-15 by the end of the period.
The Senators were hoping to build on their strong finish to the second period, but not only was Shesterkin on fire yet again, but the Rangers defense was also doing a good job blocking shots and limiting the workload of the Vezina Trophy candidate.
6:59 into the period, after a strong shift from the third line, Ennis drew a tripping penalty on Trouba, and the Senators had their best chance of the game to tie things up, on what would end up being their only power-play of the evening.
Despite generating five shots on that power-play, as well as killing off a Nick Paul holding penalty late in the game, Ottawa ultimately couldn’t get a second goal past Shesterkin, who on top of nearly scoring an empty-net goal, stopped 29 of 30 shots to secure a 2-1 victory for the Rangers. Gustavsson was also solid, making 31 saves on 33 shots in his first NHL game since January 20th.
- It gets a bit tiring from constantly bringing up the team’s injuries as an excuse, but it’s still true that we have yet to see the Ottawa Senators at full strength. Their play has improved over the course of the season in spite of Drake Batherson and others being out, so you have to give D.J. Smith and the team major credit here for the adjustments they’ve made, as well as maintaining a positive aura in the locker room. I’m excited to see how the team fares with Colin White back in the lineup, on top of their best players returning from IR.
- I feel bad for Chris Tierney because it couldn’t be more clear he’s a fourth-liner in the NHL today (and not a bad one, either), but injuries to three better centers have forced the team to rely on him as a source of secondary scoring. Watching him tonight was frustrating as there were multiple botched opportunities to at least force Shesterkin into a save. This pass from Ennis on a 2-on-1 isn’t great, but he still chose to try and return the puck to him as he was being covered by two Rangers. Ouch.
Ennis, please stop passing to Tierney on 2 on 1's. Please! pic.twitter.com/0JtYWZzOgz— Lalime's Martian (@LalimesMartian) February 21, 2022
- Parker Kelly led the team with a 5-on-5 expected goals share of 69.74% and is quickly developing into a defensively sound, agitating fourth-line player this season. He’s also having a positive impact on both Dylan Gambrell and Austin Watson, who posted positive results today as well.
- After a day’s rest, the Sens will look to avoid three straight losses against another fearsome opponent — the Minnesota Wild, on Tuesday, February 22nd, starting at 7:00 PM EST.