This was, without question, a victory that the Ottawa Senators deserved.
Granted, it wouldn’t have been possible without a Vezina-no, a Hart-worthy performance from Cam Talbot, but we've been waiting forever to see this. Too many times has our team been robbed of a victory by a hot goaltender despite a dominant on-ice performance. Too many times we’ve seen rogue pucks find seemingly impossible pathways into their net, completely deflating any momentum they had built up.
Were they lucky tonight? Yes. But they were also so, very, extremely due for every ounce of that good luck they received.
Especially since the Boston Bruins are the NHL’s best team, and there weren’t too many moments in which the Sens weren’t keeping pace.
The game began as well you could imagine given what the game-day rosters looked like. Ottawa was outshot 7-3 early, but two of their shots were breakaway attempts — including a between-the-legs attempt from Brady Tkachuk which to the surprise of nobody was stopped by Jeremy Swayman.
Despite defending for most of the frame at 5-on-5, they made up for it with their special teams play. With Matt Grezelyck in the box for tripping Parker Kelly, the top unit generated several looks, while Kelly, Nick Holden, Nikita Zaitsev (who blocked a shot and left the game), and the rest of the PK unit subdued Boston’s 3rd-ranked power-play, only allowing a single shot in the process. Jake Sanderson also had a key backcheck after a power-play turnover, robbing Tomas Nosek of a shorthanded chance. Both goalies were perfect through 20 minutes, with the shots 14-8 in favour of Boston.
It wouldn’t take long for the Bruins to open the scoring in the second — or at least that’s what it looked like at first. I could’ve sworn that Patrice Bergeron was just offside upon entering the zone prior to his opening goal, and D.J. Smith and the referees agreed after a video review, so the Sens catch a break.
It’s that game of inches that’s killed them countless times this season. Too often in November did we see an unlucky bounce absolutely kill a stretch of promising play. Here, we see Boston threatening to take over the game, only for Ottawa to outshoot them following a successful coaches challenge.
Specifically, they had the first seven shots on goal in the period, and many of these were taken off a strong forecheck, picking off the Bruins’ clearing attempts. And while they didn’t get a ton of fantastic opportunities, they were able to force Trent Frederic to close his hand on the puck to stop the play. You can’t do that, so it’s another power-play for the Sens, and while the puck movement they displayed is nothing new, it’s still a joy to watch every single time, especially when its capped off by a Tim Stützle rocket into the back of the net.
The Bruins were far from out of it, however, and had been continuing to chip away at Cam Talbot throughout the period, and Jake DeBrusk, after breaking through two Ottawa defenders, found his own rebound after a fortunate bounce to tie the game at a goal apiece.
Jake DeBrusk with the goal AND the assist pic.twitter.com/k809PmS7J0— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) December 28, 2022
But as quick as the Bruins took away the lead, it didn't take that much more time for them to give it right back, as Ottawa, with a goal on the board already, contained to force turnovers, and eventually, their hard work gave way to another glorious breakaway opportunity. And it was Alex DeBrincat who expertly finished off the play.
The special teams dominance continued in this second period as well, as Stützle’s second minor penalty of the night was killed off just as easily as the first one. The team’s defensive structure vastly improved too, with the shot count going from 14-8 Boston to 21-20 Ottawa by the end of 40 minutes, with the good guys up 2-1.
You may already be aware of this, but the Bruins outshot the Sens 27-5 in the third period. What makes it even more ridiculous, however, is that more than half of those were allowed in the final 5 minutes of the game. With Ottawa still ahead by a goal and doing a respectable job on defense, Travis Hamonic took a hooking penalty on Taylor Hall, sending Boston to their third power-play of the evening.
It appears the main reason Ottawa’s kill looked so good before was the success in the face-off circle and disruption of zone entries. This time, Boston kept the puck in Ottawa’s end for a much longer period of time, and showed why their power-play is one of the league’s best.
I don’t think I’ve seen an NHL team run up the shot clock in that short of a time in my life. But the Boston Bruins are built different. They once scored three times on the same penalty kill against Carolina. They’ve made comebacks in two Game 7s after being down 4-1 against a team whose name currently escapes me. They just do this sort of thing.
But as it turns out, Cam Talbot is also built different.
It was as close to a shooting gallery as you could imagine, and he stopped every single puck that Boston threw on net.
And then after that herculean effort on the PK, Pavel Zacha tied things up with a shot that...I can’t describe as anything beyond that. It was literally just a shot and it went in. Which just sucks.
PAVEL ZACHA TIE GAME pic.twitter.com/XNtapTyejL— Marina Maher (@marinakmaher) December 28, 2022
And it wasn’t like the Bruins were going to stop pushing after that tying goal, either. The question quickly shifted from whether or not Ottawa could hold on to the two points, to whether or not they could even make it to overtime.
With Boston keeping control of the puck for nearly all of the remaining 5 minutes of the game, the Senators mercifully were granted a chance to win the game in OT.
Neither team found the back of the net in overtime, but it was by no means for a lack of chances. Tim Stützle, Alex DeBrincat, Thomas Chabot, Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak, Taylor Hall, and probably five other guys all had very good looks on net. And don’t let Talbot’s effort distract you from Jeremy Swayman’s effort in goal, either. He stopped 30 of the 32 shots he faced, which 9 times out of 10 is enough to win the game for a team like the Bruins.
I’m not sure how to add any sort of dramatic flair to a recap of a shootout, but DeBrincat scored the lone goal, and Talbot was a perfect 3-for-3 without the puck even touching him once.
DeBrincat✅ pic.twitter.com/y2URx6Cbv8— Pesky Sickos (@PeskySickos) December 28, 2022
And with that, the Ottawa Senators found a way to win their second of two games against the Boston Bruins, and snap their three-game losing streak, with a 3-2 shootout victory.
- The second period was Ottawa’s best by far. Relentless on the forecheck and well-structured defensively, they earned a 2-1 lead, which will more often than not end up translating into two points at the end of the day.
- The return of Stützle was instrumental in ensuring Ottawa’s top-six was ready to compete tonight. Every member of the first and second line had at least an even 5-on-5 expected goals share according to NaturalStatTrick, with Jake Lucchini and Mark Kastelic having the best numbers among the bottom-six forwards.
- This was a well-disciplined game from both sides, with Ottawa taking 3 penalties and Boston taking 2. Part of what’s made Ottawa’s power-play look so good as of late has been individual decision-making and quickness in high-pressure 1-on-1 plays. If you can get an aggressive penalty killer out of position for even a split second, you can create multiple passing lanes and confound the opposing unit to generate chances in-tight./
Stats: (from NaturalStatTrick)
- The Sens will look to build on their momentum to take two of three against the Washington Capitals on Thursday December 29th, for a 7:00 PM EST puck drop./