Despite the desperately-needed return of Artem Zub and the good feelings that came from last night's win in Toronto, the Ottawa Senators never really got a foothold in this stinker.
Brock Boeser scored early in the first with a goal that initially went uncalled but ultimately crossed the line upon prompt review. Otherwise, it looked like a great reaction from Anton Forsberg as the Sens slept through the early goings of this game.
Vancouver extended their lead 2-0 at about the third minute mark on another egregious breakdown from a Sens team that definitely looked more road weary than they should have.
Jakob Chychrun drew a penalty on a great individual effort approaching the midway mark and while Drake Batherson did get a post on the powerplay, the Sens did not look up to the task against Vancouver's penalty kill.
Stop me if you've heard this one before but it just felt like as much as Ottawa's big guns tried to make things happen individually, no one seemed in sync.
Of the ten saves that Forsberg did make (they all felt like a big deal when they happened) one of the biggest came around 1030 on a clean breakaway to keep Ottawa within striking distance.
Rourke Chartier drew a fortuitous penalty in the defensive zone late in the period and Ottawa started to show some signs of cohesion with Batherson eventually scoring to close out the period with a manageable one-goal deficit. You could feel the weight of the world come off of Batherson and the Sens' skaters in general when that puck went in.
Roby Järventie took a late penalty to close out the frame in what felt like a make-up for the Chartier call but Ottawa killed the penalty that bound the first and second.
From this point on you could feel tangibly that Vancouver would stick to the plan of waiting for Ottawa to get tired and make mistakes and it paid off eventually. The Sens got a lot of one-and-done rushes that resulted in a lop-sided shot count while the Canucks happily cycled the puck and just let the clock wind down for what felt like 60 minutes. This game was score effects incarnate.
Again at the midway mark Forsberg made another essential save that felt like the difference between keeping this game in hand as opposed to spiraling down the drain. Batherson headed down the tunnel shortly thereafter following what felt like an ominous block/deflection but then he came right back and Zub tied the game to reacquaint us with that lost feeling called hope.
In another nearly-ominous sequence, Josh Norris went down awkwardly after a hit that may have seemed innocuous out of context but knowing every Norris has endured the past year, I can absolutely understand why he took a selfish penalty. And besides, Ottawa got two really good shorthanded opportunities but neither Matthew Highmore nor Parker Kelly could convert. Either way, the penalty kill looked great and Ottawa had found their groove and maybe everything would turn out okay?
Or not, Brady Tkachuk whiffed on a wide open net and then JT Miller went down the ice and restored Vancouver's lead with a couple of minutes left to go in the second. Again, knowing Ottawa played on the road last night changed the feeling entirely. Even though Ottawa mostly started playing well at both end, the Canucks had their trap fully set and you could feel the game slipping away for the entirety of the third.
Forsberg made another one of those big, singular saves around the eight-minute mark of the third but by the halfway marker the Canucks extended their lead to two again and we all needed to move on to acceptance in the face of imminent failure. Every puck Ottawa threw at the net managed to somehow catch Casey DeSmith no matter how far he wandered out of position and every third shot the Canucks took (literally) found its way in. Right now one of these teams is charmed and the other one is cursed--end of story.
A Chychrun penalty with less than seven to go in the game really iced things as the Canucks scored instantly on the powerplay. It sucked.
- Ottawa handily won the shot battle 30 to 16 but again a lot of this was score effects. And if you look at the quality of the shot attempts, Vancouver got much cleaner looks than Ottawa. You clearly see the gap in the middle of Ottawa's heatmap.
- Swapping out Zack MacEwen for Highmore seemed like a perfectly cromulent lateral move but we still have to wonder why this staff just refuses to blow up their concept of a fourth line to try to bolster the offence.
- Ottawa's first two penalty kills looked good while the powerplay looks like a mess right now.
- I can't reconcile the fact that Forsberg had an ungodly save percentage with my impression that he didn't look especially bad to the naked eye. He made a lot of saves that he needed two but he also gave up five goals on fifteen shots.
- Ottawa's key contributors looked like fish out of water for a lot of the game with Tkachuk, Norris, and Vladimir Tarasenko all failing to even register a shot on goal. Claude Giroux, Mathieu Joseph, and Tim Stützle played well but you can't win if you don't convert.
- Zub looked like Ottawa's best defender in his return despite some suspect moments from his usually reliable partner Jake Sanderson who has started to show his workload somewhat. And maybe Chychrun deserves credit but I thought Jacob Bernard-Docker looked as sound as he has yet in the NHL. The Klevonic pairing faired exactly how you would expect.
- On the other side of things, Quinn Hughes terrifies me. I don't watch Vancouver often but man that dude gives the Senators fits. I feel so sick with myself saying this, but Hughes has some Karlssonian shifts. For real.