We’ve heard the cliché a million times over the past few weeks, but it’s true: every game is a big game. The Ottawa Senators endured a horrific loss against the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday night, and they were looking to bounce back on Sunday against the Calgary Flames while on their western road trip. The Flames had been struggling of late, going 2-4-2 over their previous eight games, which was a perfect opportunity for Ottawa to capitalize on that.
The Senators caught a break early on as Tyler Toffoli thought he put the Flames up 1-0 about halfway through the period. However, Ottawa was quick to challenge the play for being offside, and the referees quickly agreed that the goal should be disallowed. It was a big relief that they didn’t allow the first goal once again, although that relief didn’t last very long. Toffoli went to the penalty box for cross-checking, giving the Senators a chance to flip the script, but as has been the case way too often recently, they somehow allowed a short-handed goal.
Despite coming down on a two-on-three, Mikael Backlund dragged the puck near the line and dropped it back to a wide-open Rasmus Andersson, who blew it past Kevin Mandolese. And instead of taking control of the game, Ottawa was frustratingly down 1-0. Just over six minutes later, the referees decided to let an obvious interference penalty go, and just moments later, Erik Brännström received a holding penalty. The penalty proved crucial, as Elias Lindholm buried another perfect pass from Backlund, making it 2-0.
It was a sloppy first period that lacked a lot of structure.
The Senators got some much-needed luck early into the second period, as an errant pass behind the net ricocheted off Jacob Markstrom, leaving it wide open for Tim Stützle:
Stützle is handed a gift to get Ottawa on the board. #GoSensGo pic.twitter.com/zgZXpiOahg— Everyday Sens (@EverydaySens) March 13, 2023
I was hoping that would be the good luck they needed in order to get back into the game, but sadly, that would be the closest the Senators would get. Just a little over a minute later, Jonathan Huberdeau showed some incredible hand-eye coordination as he batted the puck out of mid-air on his way to the net:
Jonathan Huberdeau's (@JonnyHuby11) hand-eye coordination is off the charts. pic.twitter.com/02UdhUtnWu— NHL (@NHL) March 13, 2023
Six minutes later, Noah Hanifin would add to the lead as he blew past Artem Zub and Parker Kelly, going in for a partial break. It was a nice shot over the glove of Mandolese, although not an unstoppable shot. And with just under seven minutes left in the second period, it was feeling like a repeat performance of last night.
The rest of the game didn’t show much punch from the Senators, as they allowed a fifth goal courtesy of Trevor Lewis, which was his first goal in 22 games. Ottawa had a paltry six shots in the final frame, which is not exactly the kind of drive you hope to see from a team trying to keep their playoff hopes alive. The final score was 5-1, which was the third time in four games they’ve allowed five goals this week—and even the other time they still allowed four.
- Over the past month, Ottawa has scored seven powerplay goals and allowed seven shorthanded. That is an atrocious and unacceptable stretch.
- Mathieu Joseph left the game with a lower-body injury after being boarded. You could hear his scream on the broadcast, and the way he was limping off didn’t look good. The bottom-six is thin enough as it is, and this would be another big blow.
- Kevin Mandolese didn’t get a ton of help, but he also didn’t exactly look like an NHL goalie that is ready. And that’s fine because he wasn’t supposed to be ready.
- Erik Brännström was only one of two (Julien Gauthier being the other) players to have a CF% greater than 50% tonight. Hm.
- This was back-to-back games where the team seemed dead without showing any fight. To say it’s disappointing is an understatement.
- Back-to-back losses really hurt their playoff chances, as they’re now six points back of the New York Islanders with two games in hand, and even three points back (with one game in hand) of the 9th-place Florida Panthers. The Pittsburgh Penguins seem uncatchable at eight points up on Ottawa.