With Chris Neil’s #25 hanging in the rafters of the Canadian Tire Centre for the first time, the Ottawa Senators were looking to put on a show against the Chicago Blackhawks to cap off a fantastic evening.
Not sure why they went the comedy route, but hey, it was entertaining.
Pierre Dorion suggested yesterday that the next seven games would determine whether the Senators would be buyers or sellers at this year’s trade deadline. Not even one period into this one, I’m sure he was already dialing up Cup contenders, offering up any and every player on the roster, regardless of experience.
I certainly would’ve reached for my phone after that Drake Batherson turnover leading to Patrick Kane converting on a 2-on-0 under a minute into the game. And the way the Sens played the rest of the first definitely wouldn’t have done any favours for my battery life, either.
Showtime!— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) February 18, 2023
Patrick Kane has Chicago on the board just 44 seconds in. pic.twitter.com/EH9yzklMqJ
Mads Søgaard — the poor giant, I could just cry — was called upon to stop several more chances off of brutal turnovers on the Senators’ end.
Granted, the Senators did outplay the Blackhawks for a couple of stretches and got some really good looks on Petr Mrazek. But this is against a bottom-five team, not a top-five team.
Early in the second period, the Senators continued to poorly execute plays in the offensive zone, both on a 5-on-3 power-play and a 3-on-1 rush.
That being said, despite deserving everything they had coming in the first half of that game, the Sens have been very unlucky on the season as a whole. They ranked dead last in 5-on-5 shooting percentage a few weeks ago before their 6-1-0 stretch, and they’re still dead last now. And Shane Pinto in particular came fairly close to a tying goal in the first, only to be thwarted by a broken stick lying on the ice from an earlier play.
How fitting it is that ends up deflecting a Derick Brassard point shot past Mrazek to tie the game at one.
Shane Pinto evens the game at 1 with a deflection! #GoSensGo pic.twitter.com/SGbg1pqKhs— Everyday Sens (@EverydaySens) February 18, 2023
Despite having a strong 2nd period, in which they held Chicago to a mere 5 shots on goal, the Senators through their own incompetence were going into the third period against the NHL’s worst team tied 1-1. With 20-25 minutes of hockey left to be played, the Ottawa Senators held their fate in their own hands.
This third period was a perfect demonstration of how a clutch goaltender can turn the tide of a game. Because the Sens started the third period on their heels a bit. Granted, they had 30 seconds remaining in a Parker Kelly holding penalty so I can’t fault them too much. But nevertheless, Seth Jones of all people made a nice rush to the net, forcing Søgaard to make one of his better saves of the game.
Shortly after, this happened:
Claude Giroux with a filthy finish by the way of a DeBrincat pass! #GoSensGo pic.twitter.com/FqMYipfrUh— Everyday Sens (@EverydaySens) February 18, 2023
I’m sure a lot of us expected the opposite interaction to occur a bit more often. But Alex DeBrincat has transformed into a bona fide playmaker in lieu of goalscoring, while Tim Stützle and Claude Giroux have taken charge of putting the puck into the back of the net.
And Sø wasn’t done Gaard’ing just yet. With Batherson in the box for hooking, Sam Lafferty had a great chance in tight only for the Great Dane to come up 6’7 once again.
Shortly after, this happened:
Brady Tkachuk finishes a pretty passing play by the Sens.— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) February 18, 2023
He has 4️⃣ goals and 4️⃣ assists in five games. pic.twitter.com/o70SMOEYZg
How about that pump-up celly?!?! On the back of two fantastic stops by Søgaard, it’s now 3-1 Ottawa. And with under 10 minutes to go, Artem Zub is tripped up by Tyler Johnson to send Ottawa to the power-play.
And shortly after, this happened:
Sam Lafferty scores his 4th shorthanded goal of the season, which is now tied for 1st in the NHL. #Blackhawks pic.twitter.com/KD2dJjfDap— Charlie Roumeliotis (@CRoumeliotis) February 18, 2023
The annoying part here is that Chabot crouched down to have a better chance of holding that puck in, but it still went through him anyway. You can’t reasonably expect Søgaard to bail them out this many times, and all of a sudden it’s 3-2 Ottawa.
This is where it gets scary. After not doing much with that power-play, the speedy Andreas Athanasiou flew around Artem Zub, but Søgaard held firm this time.
The Senators were being outplayed at this stage. And with several of their top offensive guys out on the ice failing to execute in the offensive zone, Patrick Kane and the 2022-23 Chicago Blackhawks, amazingly, put them to shame.
Patrick Kane moves into 3rd all-time among American-born players with 1,217 points with his 2nd goal of the night. #Blackhawks pic.twitter.com/3mE7PH1QWu— Charlie Roumeliotis (@CRoumeliotis) February 18, 2023
Once again the Senators found themselves begging for the clock to run out and get them into overtime. Against freaking Chicago. And thanks to that couple of fantastic plays by the top forwards, they did manage to stumble over the finish line to “earn” at least a point in this one, being outshot 32-31 by the end of the game.
Could they double up in the extra frame?
CHICAGO COMPLETES THE COMEBACK!— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) February 18, 2023
Tyler Johnson finds Andreas Athanasiou in close for the @SUBWAYCanada OT winner. pic.twitter.com/VH3aCadp4W
Sure, they played really well in overtime, getting all but one of the great chances.
But that overtime wasn’t the story. They shot themselves in the foot multiple times in that third period. And they probably know that at the end of the day, they didn’t deserve one point, let alone two. They choked against a bad hockey team, plain and simple. Move on to the next one.
- It’s nearly impossible to be positive after a game like that. But I’ll try. Of all the ways this game could’ve gone, they did get another point in the standings, improving to 6-1-1 in their last eight games. There have been tons of issues with the way they’ve played in these last three games, but 5-on-5 shooting has been the name of the game this season, and getting 3 goals on 22 5-on-5 shots is a sign that things are moving in the right direction.
- Across the team, performances were a mixed bag. Derick Brassard and Shane Pinto led the team in 5-on-5 expected goals % while contributing a point each. The DeBrincat - Greig - Giroux line struggled in comparison, especially in the first period.
- Mads Søgaard had a decent outing — in spite of the .875 save percentage he made several strong saves from close range. Not good enough to steal a game, but not remotely responsible for the loss, either.
Stats (from NaturalStatTrick.com)
In order for Ottawa to maintain a decent pace in the standings, they’ll need a minimum of three points in the next two games. First up is the St. Louis Blues, on Sunday, February 19th, with a 2:00 PM EST start time.