These two games were a statement. After wrecking the Red Wings 6-2 yesterday, the Senators followed up with a more dominant 6-1 victory today. This included two goals from none other than Austin Watson. It may be coming just too late, but the Sens are making a real push for the playoffs.
Expectations were always going to be high coming off a 6-2 win. I think even the homerest of Sens fans would admit though that there was no way they were going to come out of the gate and continue that dominance. Besides, tonight starting goalie Ville Husso was in net instead of Sens legend Magnus Hellberg. Turns out they could absolutely keep dominating. Of course, Dominik Kubalik had a perfectly-placed shot to open the scoring four minutes in, but that would do it for the Wings’ offence. Kubalik and Travis Hamonic shoved each other after the goal, and both went off, giving a 4-on-4. Tim Stützle then majestically created a breakaway chance for himself, and was ruled to be interfered with on the breakaway, giving a penalty shot chance. But before the ref could gesture it, Tyler Bertuzzi got into a fight with Artem Zub. Zub chants rained down, especially as he held his own despite it being his first career fight, against a guy with four in the NHL and 5 in the AHL. It felt like the definition of everything everywhere all at once. The penalty shot finally happened, and Jimmy made no mistake:
Himothy! #GoSensGo pic.twitter.com/RZKKofw8Ae— Ottawa Senators (@Senators) March 1, 2023
The teams traded powerplay chances after that, with the Sens even getting a bunch of it 4-on-3, The Sens couldn’t score on the powerplay, but on the PK, Dylan Gambrell (!) forced a turnover, giving Austin Watson (!!) a breakaway, where he pulled the classic backhand fake before burying it high on his forehand (!?!?!):
Watty on the shorthanded breakaway! #GoSensGo pic.twitter.com/mS8PC5NRcG— Ottawa Senators (@Senators) March 1, 2023
I never would’ve guessed the Sens’ first two goals of the game would be on a penalty shot and then shorthanded. The Sens’ PK stood tall again, and the Sens would get some great chances before Watson scored again, this time assisted by a beauty pass from Mark Kastelic:
Contact wasn't stopping Watty on this one! #GoSensGo pic.twitter.com/mzgRXj4Aeu— Ottawa Senators (@Senators) March 1, 2023
Watson took a high-stick on the play, and needed some repairs, but seemed to be OK heading to the bench:
Stick to the face while scoring a goal but still celebrates... Austin Watson is a beauty! pic.twitter.com/btSWuXQCtj— BarDown (@BarDown) March 1, 2023
It felt very fitting that Watson got hit in the face by David Perron on the play, and was very (VERY) bloodied, sending Ottawa right to the powerplay. It was only two minutes, since they scored on the play, taking away one of Perron’s penalties, but they only needed 23 seconds for Alex DeBrincat to show them why you shouldn’t let Ottawa have a powerplay at all:
The celly says it all! #GoSensGo pic.twitter.com/CNMGyas5NF— Ottawa Senators (@Senators) March 1, 2023
For those keeping score at home, that was a penalty shot (earned during 4-on-4), a shorthanded goal, an even-strength goal, and a powerplay goal for the Sens in the first period. The only real downsides were that late in the period they gave the Red Wings two more powerplays, and when you’re up by three, you don’t want to give the other team any chance to come back. Still, hard to complain when you get 16 shots and only give up 5 in a period.
While the first started with a whole lot in the first few minutes, the second didn’t have much going on. The most noteworthy part was when Stützle-Tkachuk-Giroux-Chabot-Zub played keepaway in the Wings’ zone for more than 1:30, cycling the puck, and though it didn’t lead to a goal, it was a sign that the team wasn’t going to back off just because they had a healthy lead. With Hamonic and this time Joe Veleno getting into a shoving match in front of the benches, the teams again went to 4-on-4. During this, Dylan Larkin decided it was a great time to blindside Tkachuk away from the puck. It gave the Sens another 4-on-3 powerplay, and this time it was Giroux (with a perfect screen from Tkachuk) that scored:
Claude sauces it right in! #GoSensGo pic.twitter.com/bcPaqKOAYo— Ottawa Senators (@Senators) March 1, 2023
After the goal, Tkachuk first pointed to Giroux to show whose goal it was, and then to Larkin in the penalty box, saying something along the lines of a profanity-laced “I’m gonna rip your head off”. Things stayed physical, but there really wasn’t much else to talk about, with the shots only being 6-3 for Detroit across the entire period.
The third period didn’t seem like the Wings were going to make much of a push. It was pretty low-event, until Ottawa’s top line got some zone time and Tkachuk did one of the 18 things he does best: tip it past the goalie.
https://t.co/Tof24mN4pc pic.twitter.com/ooBTUuHo6B— Ottawa Senators (@Senators) March 1, 2023
Check out the flex celly from Brady at the end there. From there, Robby Fabbri decided to trip Jake Sanderson in frustration, and got a penalty plus a 10-min misconduct. DJ Smith played the second unit, and then a hybrid unit with Julien Gauthier, Kastelic, and Watson getting turns, probably preserving the best guys. And as it expired, Watson drew another penalty. This time the top unit went out, but Stützle decided to pull his own cheap shot out to nullify it halfway through. The game was chippy from there, with several offsetting penalties, but no further scoring. My favourite part was seeing a brief powerplay of Kastelic-Watson-Brassard-Holden-Brännström. The Red Wings looked defeated, sad, and frustrated to end it, and who could blame them? They were physically run out of the building, badly outshot, and outscored 12-3 over two games. This one ended 6-1, and the Sens continued rolling at the most important time of year.
- Ottawa wasn’t great on the discipline tonight, giving up eight powerplays. Seeing the PK go 8/8 though made up for it, and they even got a goal for themselves.
- Søgaard could’ve struggled, since he faced a shot or two every five minutes and then very little happened in between. But he stayed dialed in after giving up a softie early on, and was full marks for the win.
- It’s nice to see Watson get the two goals. Every NHL player was a skill player at one point, and Watty was a first-round pick. Turns out he actually had a hat-trick with the Preds, but still, this was a nice night for him.
- I remember saying a couple years ago that I was hopeful Tkachuk could become like Corey Perry in his prime, the kind of player who will get under your skin and then score to make you hate him more. This was the perfect kind of game for him. He drew a dumb penalty from Larkin, he caused all sorts of havoc in front of the opposition crease, and he got a goal.
- Brännström stood out to me tonight for having broken up several plays with his stick. He is sneaky good with his stick.