The Battle of Ontario is always wild, especially when the game is being played in Ottawa in front of a crowd that’s very much split between Leafs and Sens fans. Tonight’s game felt a little bit extra silly, though. There was a very specific energy to this game between a “cup contender” and a lottery team with several of its best players on injured reserve - despite the loss, it was easily one of the most entertaining games of the season for your Ottawa Senators. Just pure fun, from start to finish. This late in the season, that’s about all you could ask for.
Despite the energy in the rink and on social media, the two teams got off to a bit of a slow start. Neither team was really dominating play in the first half of the period, and the most exciting moment was definitely Adam Gaudette pulling off a really cool move but failing to score. The Sens killed off two penalties, and while they were getting outshot, they were certainly still in the game.
Just after the second penalty expired, the energy changed abruptly. It was like a switch had flipped, and of course the Captain was involved. After the Sens stopped an offensive rush by the Leafs, Tkachuk and Stützle found themselves on a 2-on-0 with plenty of time to score, and Timmy finished the play. It was a beautiful goal, but the ensuing celebration was great, too, as both players leaped into the glass at the same time. In that moment, the vibes at the CTC were unparalleled. 1-0 Ottawa.
Immediately after the opening goal, Anton Forsberg made a great stop, and then Michael Del Zotto scored with a shot from the point that the Leafs’ goaltender just couldn’t quite handle. Tkachuk did a great job with the screen, too. 2-0 Ottawa.
The Sens’ing had officially begun.
The Sens’ing continued when Tim Stützle drew a very strange penalty right at the end of the period.
What is Tim Stützle even doing lol— Nathan “Grav" (@NathanGraviteh) April 16, 2022
Look, I don’t know why any ref with eyes would call that a penalty, because Timmy was clearly just stopping up and going off for a line change, but it was hilarious and it made a bunch of Leafs fans go Gallagher-mode on Stützle, so I’m on board.
Timmy is a menace. He has haters now. That’s why we love him.
Unfortunately, the most exciting thing to happen on that powerplay was Brännström expertly breaking up a shorthanded 2-on-1.
Fantastic defensive play by Brännström. pic.twitter.com/esdERs2oof— Everyday Sens (@EverydaySens) April 16, 2022
The heart-stopping pace carried into the second, which somehow had an even higher pace. It was back-and-forth for twenty minutes with few whistles, no defense, and a whole lot of scoring chances. Unfortunately, the Leafs got the first goal of the middle frame. There wasn’t much Forsberg could have done on that one - it was just a great tip. 2-1 Ottawa.
Hilariously, Austin Watson then denied Auston Matthews by intercepting a pass with a wide open net, proving once again that he is the best Aust(i/o)n in Ontario.
Several good chances were had, but somehow the next goal wasn’t scored until the halfway mark. This time it was Dylan Gambrell extending the Sens’ lead. Yes, you read that correctly. The Toronto Maple Leafs let Michael Del Zotto and Dylan Gambrell score on them. I’d say “fold the franchise” but we all know this doesn’t even crack the top 100 most embarrassing moments for them. 3-1 Ottawa.
That goal woke up the Leafs, unfortunately. Bunting scored soon afterward to make it 3-2 Ottawa.
Several incredible chances followed, most of them for the Leafs, although Brady Tkachuk did get a great breakaway right after a dangerous shift from the Matthews line. He didn’t score, which is a shame because it would have been absolutely hilarious if he had.
Just as it was starting to look like the Sens might survive this second period and earn themselves a chance to recoup in the locker room, Mitch Marner tied the game. 3-3.
The last minute and a half looked like a Leafs powerplay, except actually good, and the Sens were lucky to head into the intermission with the game tied.
Compared to the ridiculous pace of the second period, the start of the third felt almost tame. There was some defense being played. Not a lot, but some. At times.
Play was mostly even, although DJ Smith did make the decision to match up the Holden-Zaitsev pairing against the Matthews line, and as you can imagine they struggled with that assignment.
This game was already thrilling and strange, and as I mused on Twitter, it had the feel of a game that Ottawa could win if they just scored in a really funny way. About 6 minutes in, Tim Stützle answered the call.
The funny part of the goal, of course, is that Tim Stützle was already public enemy #1, and that was his second goal of the game. A beautiful one, too. The kid is just dunking on his haters these days. 4-3 Ottawa.
It wasn’t going to be that easy to win, though. Mitch Marner got his second of the game soon afterward. 4-4.
Hilariously, Nikita Zaitsev got a really good chance to take back the lead, but was stopped, and then Brady Tkachuk did something funny. So many things were happening.
Although Matthews almost scored in the dying seconds of the game, we were still tied after regulation.
In case you couldn’t tell, this game was already absolutely wild. It was one of those “they need to let these guys play until a goal is scored because ending it with a shootout would be a travesty” kind of games and, well, at least we got that.
Also, if you didn’t have Tim Stützle scoring the overtime winner to complete the hat trick, I don’t know what to say to you.
For a moment - a few minutes into an overtime just as thrilling as the game - it looked like the prophecy would be fulfilled. Stützle went in on a breakaway, with plenty of time to take the shot... and was stopped.
Connor Brown pushed the puck in, but it was too late. The goaltender had already stopped it.
In that moment, I knew the game didn’t matter anymore.
Timmy scoring on that breakaway would have been one of the best moments of the season. If that can’t happen, then what’s the point of even continuing the game?
Giordano scored for the Leafs, and that was it. 5-4 Leafs was the final.
Whatever. It was fun and the Sens didn’t embarrass themselves.
- You know, I started writing for Silver Seven in 2017, and I remember that a few months in I realized that I was writing about Mark Stone in the “Notable Performances” section of every single recap. I kept doing that for his entire tenure with the Senators, because he left me no choice. I bring this up because I feel like this is happening with Tim Stützle.
- Seriously, what more is there left to say about this kid? He isn’t just good every game; he’s absolutely electric, worth the price of admission all on his own. I hope Drake Batherson enjoyed his time as the Sens’ best forward, and Brady Tkachuk enjoyed his time as the Sens’ lone representative at the All-Star game. I have a feeling those days might be behind us. Kid’s unreal.
- Forsberg was incredible in net tonight. He’s having a great season, and if he can keep up this level of play next year, that could mean very good things for this team.
- Erik Brännström made some very good defensive plays.