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Senators beat the Islanders 2-1 in a tight game

In his first NHL game, Ridly Greig put up an assist and 8 shots on goal

NHL: New York Islanders at Ottawa Senators Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

It was a close one, and a bit of a three-way goaltending battle, but the good guys prevailed, with the Ottawa Senators beating the New York Islanders 2-1 in a game in which the shots finished 38-36 for the Sens. Shane Pinto and Claude Giroux scored for the Sens, and Cam Talbot earned the win, though Anton Forsberg had to come in halfway through the game when Talbot left with a mysterious lower-body injury. Hopefully, he’s OK, because it was otherwise a pretty good night for the Sens and they were full marks for this win.

All eyes before the game were on Ridly Greig (please note this is the proper spelling), the 2020 1st-rounder (28th overall). He became the fifth player — after Tim Stützle, Jake Sanderson, Egor Sokolov, and Cole Reinhardt — from the Sens’ 2020 draft to play an NHL game, not bad for 2.5 years later. He was slotted between Claude Giroux and Alex DeBrincat, giving him every chance to succeed in his first game.

The first period began the way you’d expect from two struggling teams. After all, the Sens had been limited to one goal or fewer in four of their previous five games, while the Isles had lost nine of their previous 10, and had been limited to two goals or fewer in all of those games. The teams traded tepid scoring chances, but nothing looked particularly dangerous. The Sens gave up the game’s first powerplay, but managed to keep the Isles outside. The Sens got the second powerplay thanks to some nifty deking from Tim Stützle, forcing Adam Pelech into a trip. Just after it expired, Shane Pinto found a loose puck in front of the net and batted it into the net:

Greig for his part managed to take two Isles’ defenders in front. He didn’t get a point on the play, but he was involved in it. He also had a nice defensive play on a 2-on-1, and a tip that just missed the net. The only other noteworthy event was Austin Watson taking a hook near the end of the period, and Jean-Gabriel Pageau put a one-timer in behind Talbot, but about 2 seconds after the buzzer had gone to end the period. The Sens left the period with a 1-0 lead.

The second started well for the Sens, and got progressively worse as it continued. First, they managed to score on their next powerplay. It was Greig who took the shot to create the rebound, and Claude Giroux tucked in the rebound, giving Greig his first NHL point.

Greig also had another great defensive play, rushing back to break up an odd-man play, steal the puck, and turn it back the other way for his linemates. About halfway through the period, Cam Talbot skated to the bench after what seemed like a nothing play, and suddenly Anton Forsberg was in net. It looked like he’d injured his leg or groin on a right-pad save, but it seemed like nothing at the time. A cold Forsberg took over duties, and faced eight shots over the rest of the period. One of those came off a scramble in front, and Brock Nelson put it in to cut the Sens’ lead in half. That 2-1 margin stood up for the period, setting up a tense third.

The teams traded chances in the third. First, Jean-Gabriel Pageau got a great shot in the slot but Forsberg’s glove was better. Then on a powerplay, Drake Batherson danced in but put it off the crossbar. The on the same powerplay, Pageau got another great shot but again Forsberg’s glove was equal to it. The pace was frantic, and any tension I’d felt before the period start got amplified. The Isles poured on the pressure, with what had been a 14-shot lead for the Sens at one point eroding to a 2-shot lead by the end of the game, but Forsberg wasn’t to be beaten again. He finished the game a .955 (though, quirkily, Talbot got the win), and the Sens eked out a nailbiter at home.

My thoughts:

  • Greig needs to be talked about again, because he looked very comfortable for his first NHL game. He got into 13:46 of action, not bad for a first game, and had an impressive stat line: 8 (!!) shots on goal, an assist, a hit, two blocks, two takeaways, no giveaways. I know we can overstate a single performance (hello, Max Lajoie), but he looked very, very good tonight. Not to mention, 8 SOG is tied for the most ever in an NHL debut. Also, shoutout to Garry Busey Galley for making the mistake we’ve all been worried about making, referring to Greig as Ridley Scott.
  • For what it’s worthy, Giroux looked the smileyest I’d seen him in a long time, playing with Greig.
  • The goalies looked calm and collected tonight, both of them. You’d think the last few disasters in net had never happened. I worried that when Forsberg let in one, he’d collapse, but no, he was steady and strong after that.
  • JGP looks very good still. I don’t regret that trade (the pick that was Greig + one of the picks used to get Søgaard), and I don’t know if I’d want him at $5M a year, but he’s clearly still a great player.
  • I felt like I really noticed Sanderson tonight, and it turns he got two assists, so that probably makes sense. His speed, his positioning, his puck-handling all looked good.
  • I hardly noticed Nikita Zaitsev in his return, and I think that’s also a good thing.

Game Flow:

Shot Chart: