After playing only what the most generous would call hockey in Seattle the night before, the Senators visited the Canucks looking to show a little life. The Canucks had also played the night before, though they performed a 6-2 drubbing of the Stars, showing that they were still fighting for an unlikely playoff spot. Thus, all expectations were subverted with the Sens coming out on top with a 4-3 shootout victory, which featured two goals from Alex Formenton and minimal stoppages in play.
The game seemed to pick up where the previous night’s game had ended. Dylan Gambrell took the Sens’ first penalty fewer than 2 minutes in, and six seconds into the powerplay J.T. Miller gave the Canucks the early lead. The Sens would carry a bunch of the play thereafter, with Tim Stützle and Drake Batherson standing out in particular, but it was the Canucks who struck second. Zach Senyshyn took an awkward high-sticking penalty, and the Sens technically killed off the penalty, but Brock Boeser scored four seconds after it expired, before Senyshyn could even re-enter the zone. Jaroslav Halak, who apparently is still playing hockey, made a couple of good saves, and even with a late powerplay they failed to score any goals in the first.
What did happen late in the first was Halak got injured on a net-front scramble, shaking his blocker hand like it had been pinned under his goalie stick or something. He finished the period, but Thatcher Demko came in to start the second. The Sens managed to get on the board, with a double-tip on a point shot from Nikita Zaitsev making it through, recorded as Alex Formenton’s goal as he got the final lovely touch on it.
From there, the period was mostly Canucks. First, Zub took a penalty with 14:17 left in the period, which ended up being the last faceoff until the 6:33 mark. I hate to rag on Zaitsev, but he made a play on the PK that was quintessential Zaitsev. With the Sens rushing up shorthanded but without a clear chance, they passed the puck back to Zaitsev to kill some time. He passed it up to Connor Brown, who again sent it back to Zaitsev. Zaitsev then couldn’t decide whether to pass it or dump it, so he held onto it until two forecheckers got right in his face, and forced a turnover, allowing the Vancouver powerplay to get set up. The Nucks didn’t score on the powerplay, but not for lack of trying, as Elias Pettersson alone seemed to miss forty-two one-timers high over the net from the Josh Norris sweet spot (TM). The other big deal to happen was Stützle took an awkward hipcheck/bridge from Luke Schenn. Stützle would take his next shift, but headed down the tunnel right afterwards, clearly not feeling right. Luckily, Jimmy Stüperstar would be out to start the third.
The third period picked up right where the first and second didn’t, with the Sens scoring two quick ones. First, Erik Brännström made the kind of play that gives me so much faith in his offensive ability. He took a slapshot deliberately wide, planning for it to bounce in front, where Parker Kelly made a fantastic shot. The Twitter account may call it a fortuitous bounce, but I think it was fairly deliberate.
Then Nikita Zaitsev made a great play, spotting a streaking Formenton and making the long pass to put him on a partial break. Formenton saw Demko cheating to the far side, and roofed it short side to take the lead:
The goal gave Travis Hamonic his first point as a Senator. The lead was short-lived though, because in some 4-on-4, Brock Boeser found Travis Dermott in front for a tap-in to tie it up. On the same 4-on-4, Formenton came with an inch of scoring his first career hat-trick, deking out Demko to his backhand but then putting it off the post beside the goalie’s outstretched skate, or as Dbalkwill put it, Canada Post ripping Formenton off. To continue the theme of the second, we went 5 minutes without a whistle after that, and then 9:08 without a whistle to end the game. Ottawa definitely looked like the more tired team, going for chances on the rush, while allowing Vancouver to get set up multiple times in the offensive zone. Regulation ended tied 3-3, with shots very even at 34-32 for Vancouver.
Overtime was relatively low-event for 3-on-3 OT, with Vancouver getting the bulk of the chances. Brady Tkachuk had a glorious chance to win it at the buzzer, but his tip from point-blank somehow caught the outside edge of the post. That took the teams to the shootout. Filip Gustavsson stood tall, only allowing one goal on five shooters, while both Batherson and Adam Gaudette scored for Ottawa, sealing the 4-3 victory.
I also promised to quote a couple of my favourite comments of the night, so here’s some IQ-400 strategizing courtesy of OttawaWendy: “Brown and Formenton exit the zone better without the center than with. Maybe we should play them with 3 D and see what happens.”
- Formenton goes without saying here, with two goals, at least one near-goal, outrageous speed, and lots of confidence.
- Stützle was for my money the Sens’ best player again tonight. He’s fantastic, and it’s exciting to watch. Hopefully his bump-up tonight was minor.
- Gustavsson looked a little shaky on the first goal, and pretty well locked it down after that. Nice to see him get his first win since November.
Game Flow and Heat Map: