It was the penultimate game of 2022 for the Ottawa Senators tonight as they looked to begin another winning streak while facing off against the Washington Capitals. They were lucky to beat the Boston Bruins in a shootout on Tuesday, but it’s not as if they’ve been lucky this whole season. Heading into tonight, the Capitals had won five games in a row and were 10-1-0 over their past 11 games, so this was not going to be an easy task.
Considering this was a road game, I’d say that getting the first eleven shots on goal was pretty good. The Capitals didn’t get a shot until about ten minutes in, although they did have a few that missed the net. You couldn’t ask for a better start despite the most important part—scoring goals. It was 0-0 after the first period despite Ottawa dominating the pace and play, all at even strength.
The problem is, we’re used to that script. You can almost guarantee that if the Senators are clearly the better team early on, they’ll be the first team to allow a goal. It’s difficult for them to follow up an excellent period with another excellent one, and that proved to be true when Alex Ovechkin would give Washington a 1-0 lead. Due to a terrible line change, Ovechkin was all alone at the Senators blueline, and Erik Gustafsson’s stretch pass sprung him on a breakaway. He didn’t shoot as hard as he probably meant to, but it went through Cam Talbot’s five-hole nonetheless.
Then just over two minutes later, Dylan Strome added to the Capitals’ lead. Jacob Bernard-Docker let both Strome and Conor Sheary get around him at the boards, which gave Sheary a great opportunity to set up a one-timer for Strome. His shot was perfectly placed over Talbot’s shoulder, although it was still one that you’d like to see stopped. After all of that momentum in the first period, it was 2-0 Washington.
The Senators immediately had a chance to get back into the game as Garnet Hathaway took a slashing penalty just 17 seconds after Strome’s goal, but Ottawa could never get too settled on the man advantage. Thankfully, after all those shots being thrown at Darcy Kuemper, the Senators scored an incredibly lucky goal with 11:30 left in the period. Shane Pinto’s shot off the rush was stopped, and the Capitals attempted to blindly clear the puck out of the zone. Unfortunately for them, it went straight to Jake Sanderson, and his shot took a lucky bounce for his second career goal:
Unsurprisingly, Ottawa continued to control the play after Sanderson’s goal, and the rest of the period was quite chaotic. They could have easily tied the game at various points, but Evgeny Kuznetsov gave the Capitals a two-goal lead once again. It was a back-breaking goal that has killed the Senators too often this season: dominate the play for a while, then allow a goal on the first shot the other way. Kuznetsov’s goal was the second five-hole goal on Talbot, although with the amount of time and space he had, it was almost expected to go in.
It could have been worse at 4-1 before the period ended because offsetting minor penalties put things at 4-on-4 and then an Alex DeBrincat holding penalty gave the Capitals a 4-on-3 for less than a minute. For the second time this season, Travis Hamonic’s stick broke on the penalty kill and he was stuck in his own zone, so it was essentially a 4-on-2. Even when the puck was cleared, he went toward the bench, then back to the zone, then back to the bench again, which led to an incredible amount of space for Washington. Incredibly, the Capitals did not score despite going against just two real penalty killers.
Then in the dying seconds of the penalty kill, Ottawa scored one of their nicest goals of the season when accounting for the entire play. Claude Giroux made an incredible dive to intercept a pass, and then gave it to a wide-open Tim Stützle who deked out Kuemper on the breakaway:
It was a massive goal before the period ended, something that we’ve rarely seen this season. The score was a manageable 3-2 for Washington through two periods.
The third period continued to be an entertaining game at both ends of the ice. Both teams had no problem smoothly moving the puck around, and the score only being 3-2 was a bit of a surprise. Then with just 5:34 to play, magic happened...Ottawa erased the two-goal lead thanks to DeBrincat’s one-timer on a three-on-two with Shane Pinto. DeBrincat’s initial pass to Pinto had to be properly corralled, and Pinto’s pass back barely made it through, then DeBrincat somehow put it past Kuemper to tie the game:
Pinto and DeBrincat make some magic to tie things up at 3! 🪄 pic.twitter.com/inXXXZwzX2— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) December 30, 2022
It was another rare moment: a clutch, easy goal to tie the game late. That sent the game to overtime for the second time in a week against Washington. Gustafsson came so close to giving the Capitals the extra point, but it was not meant to be. Instead, Pierre Dorion’s prized off-season additions were the overtime heroes: Giroux and DeBrincat:
It was back-to-back massive goals for DeBrincat, which must feel great for him. It was also the first time that Ottawa has won a game this season after trailing after two periods, which is incredible. The Senators won by a score of 4-3 in overtime, which puts them at a record of 16-16-3. Let’s see if they can get over .500 before the New Year.
- Where would this team be without Giroux? Not only is he consistently putting up points, but he’s also consistently scoring or assisting on big goals when the team needs it. He’s very quickly become the Senators best free agent signing of all-time.
- Bernard-Docker played a career-high 22:28 tonight, which was just 16 seconds behind Sanderson. He has shown some positive signs, although he didn’t look good on the Capitals second goal, and can improve in his own zone. They need him to be at least playable on one of the pairings.
- DeBrincat now has 13 goals and 22 assists in 35 games on the season, putting him on pace for a career-high 82 points. He’s also on pace for exactly 30 goals, so it’s not like that should be something to complain about either. He needs to get paid.
- Jake Lucchini’s skill level was noticeable. He may not be a long-time NHLer, but I like that he’s not just some random 4th liner who has no skill. He’s been excellent in Belleville and I like that he’s being rewarded for that.
- Shane Pinto is looking a bit more comfortable in the top-six with DeBrincat and Drake Batherson. Ideally, he’s still on the third line when Josh Norris comes back, but he’s certainly been better than a few months ago.
- Ottawa absolutely deserved to win this game as they were quite consistent throughout. The game flow below will show that, and it’s encouraging that none of the goals had to be scored on the powerplay./