I sincerely hope you spent your Saturday evening more productively than I did. The Sens had a layup here and got lots of help from the out of town scoreboard but instead of closing in on a playoff spot they just sort of folded like lawn chairs after ten minutes of spirited play.
Ottawa came out swinging in the first period with a clear mandate to forecheck relentlessly and get Vancouver’s defenders on their heels. It worked for the most past over the first eight minutes and change as the Canucks managed just a couple of shots and the Senators spent most of their time in the Canucks’ end. Claude Giroux and Brady Tkachuk each had decent looks very early on. The first eight or so minutes of the game also had barely any stoppages which seemed to help Ottawa’s cause as they had Vancouver against the ropes. In what felt like a reversal of the script from earlier in the season, Mads Søgaard came up with a couple of good if not routine saves to keep the game scoreless. For so much of the season it has felt as though every time Ottawa failed to score after sustaining pressure, they would immediately concede a soft goal.
The second half of the first period skewed far more in Vancouver’s favour as Shane Pinto took two tripping penalties and the Canucks finally had some time in Ottawa’s end. The Sens managed to kill off the first penalty with only a couple of close calls. Ottawa couldn’t get any of that sustained pressure back in their favour after the penalty kill though and in between PKs did end up conceding the first goal of the game to Andrei Kuzmenko on some pretty soft defence from some of Ottawa’s best players. All told, the first period on the road in a different time zone could have gone a lot of worse and the shot count (10-5 for Vancouver) didn’t really do justice for the Sens (five-on-five expected goals near even after 20 minutes) but Ottawa came out of the first frame down by one goal with some PK time left on the clock from Pinto’s second infraction.
Ottawa managed to kill those carryover penalty kill seconds to open the second frame and even got some good fortune as they drew a defensive zone penalty. Midway through said powerplay, however, the Sens conceded a brutal shorthanded goal (this has become an alarming trend in recent games) to JT Miller, and never looked especially threatening with the advantage. Down by a pair, and with bruised egos no doubt, the Sens looked somewhat re-invigorated but with their lead established, Vancouver could sit back and cherry-pick. Doing just that, Dakota Joshua and Nils Aman exploited some particularly atrocious backchecking from Nick Holden and Travis Hamonic to make it 3-0. You know things have gone sideway when you need to look up the players who just scored against your team.
At this point it fully felt like Chicago all over again. Drake Batherson took an offensive zone penalty late in the second that the Sens managed to kill off and somehow Ottawa managed to keep the five-on-five Corsi and expected goals about even after 40 minutes.
The third period had a bit of everything (mostly bad though). Despite holding a solid lead, Vancouver looked intent on engaging the Sens physically to throw them off and it kimda seemed to work. Ottawa’s core players just couldn’t make a pass or hit the net with any sort of rhythm, and an egregious pinch by Jakob Chychrun led to a 4-0 lead for Vancouver. After killing off yet another penalty, Ottawa got rewarded with a powerplay of their own and while they couldn’t convert, the Sens did finally crack the ol’ goose egg with six minutes to go courtesy of Giroux:
Right place right time, G ! #GoSensGo pic.twitter.com/yBklA24oHD— Ottawa Senators (@Senators) March 12, 2023
As part of the redemption tour late in the game, Holden scored shortly after Giroux to cut the deficit to two goals:
Holdy shows the touch to get within 2! #GoSensGo pic.twitter.com/3fikGsjkDN— Ottawa Senators (@Senators) March 12, 2023
Things really looked to have lined up for the Sens at this point as the Canucks took a puck over glass penalty with two minutes to go. Ottawa had set up the 6-on-4 in the Vancouver end and then everything just fell apart. First Giroux fell victim to a suspect slashing/interference call that made it 4-on-4 in the Sens’ end. Then Chabot tried to get cheeky and took a holding the stick penalty. Suddenly on the ice 4-on-3, Ottawa went for the empty net once they gained the zone but the fourth skater just—didn’t get the memo? Kuzmenko scored on the empty net and we all went to bed sad as a reward for staying up until one in the goddamn morning for this shit.
- Getting outshot 30-20 when trailing most of the game makes the performance look even worse than it should. At five-on-five, most of the percentages wash out to 50/50 but the Canucks spent a lot of time on the powerplay. Ottawa deserves credit for killing all of said penalties but the Senators’ powerplay—woof.
- Not that many Senators played especially well in this one, but Brady looked rattled. Vancouver had his number tonight.
- While we’ve collectively said this all season long and tonight only represents another drop in the bucket, I still cannot wrap my head around DJ Smith keeping DeBrincat, Pinto, and Batherson together. All three can generate offence on their own but they just don’t have the chemistry to create as a line. Tonight pretty much summed up their season. For all the talent on that line, Vancouver had the answers defensively and managed to push the Sens back into their own zone with the second line out there.
- Hard to pin any blame on your rookie netminder when your best players really don’t have their stuff on a given night but Søgaard had a very underwhelming 86.2 saver percentage.
- On that note, I would usually roll my eyes at Smith for giving the bottom six so many minutes late in the game when trailing but the top two lines just looked so lost for most of this game. Full credit to the grinders from me for once.
- Please let us have Erik Brännström tomorrow. Also Ottawa absolutely has to project their frustrations onto a Calgary team going through its own existential crisis when given the chance on Sunday.