Against the current frontrunners for the President’s Trophy, the Ottawa Senators' failure to win their fifth-straight game in five years wouldn’t be the most disappointing thing in the world. But after seeing the skill that was on display on Tuesday against the New Jersey Devils, the flat performance we saw tonight stings just a bit more than usual.
There were several indicators early on that the Sens weren’t going to be the same team we saw against the Devils. Instead, a lack of responsibility in all three zones led to a very easy period for Spencer Knight, who only needed to stop 7 shots, compared to the 12 faced by Filip Gustavsson. They couldn't complete even the simplest passes in the offensive zone, and while the defense did an okay job in the first few minutes, Florida found themselves with several good opportunities in the back half of the frame. A Drake Batherson turnover in his own end led to San Reinhart opening the scoring for Florida at the 6:01 mark of the period, which was the only goal in the first 20 minutes.
Ottawa would face a tough challenge in the second, as penalties from Chris Tierney and Austin Watson gave the Panthers a two-man advantage, but the PK unit did a great job, preventing quality chances and successfully killing the 5-on-3. This served as a change in momentum for the Senators, who after being down in shots 17-9, brought their deficit to 19-18 by the end of the period, one which featured a much more inspired effort than in the first.
The Panthers would unfortunately quash the little hope Ottawa had early in the third period. Sam Bennett doubled the lead just 1:11 in, capitalizing off a Nick Holden error...
...and a mere 22 seconds later, Erik Brännström was caught flat-footed at his own blue line, which created another high-danger chance for the Panthers, finished off by Carter Verhaeghe.
Verhaeghe added a second marker at 13:08 in the period, and aside from a bit of chaos from Parker Kelly and Noel Acciari, there wasn’t anything all that interesting that took place afterward. Failing to win five in a row, they fell 4-0 to the NHL’s best team, while being outshot 30-27.
- Despite the shots being close, Ottawa’s lack of attention to detail was evident from the start — passes were off the mark, turnovers were frequent, and controlled zone entries were as rare as a FanShot on this site. Part of it has to do with the Panthers, even without Aaron Ekblad, Jonathan Huberdeau, and Aleksander Barkov, being a very talented team, but I think we can count on Ottawa’s top players being much better in the average game than they were tonight.
- Special teams were somewhat of a bright spot. The power-play didn’t score, but the top unit moved the puck very well and was able to set up Josh Norris for several of his trademark rockets from the circle. The penalty kill went a perfect 3-for-3, including their suffocation of the Panthers’ minute-long 5-on-3 opportunity. Gustavsson, although unable to fulfill the mammoth task of bailing his team out tonight, did a solid job in goal for 40 minutes.
- Austin Watson’s best game of the season was that 8-2 win over Florida on December 14th, and he was pretty good in this one, as well. Even taking into account the ill-advised minor penalty he took, he was less noticeable than most others on the team (that’s a compliment!), and his physicality tonight helped the Sens more than it hurt them, as he led all forwards with a 5-on-5 expected goals share of 58.43%, according to NaturalStatTrick.
- The conclusion of Ottawa’s 2021-22 campaign will feature a road tilt against the Philadelphia Flyers, scheduled for 7:00 PM EST tomorrow, April 29th.