Connor Brown Scores Twice, Senators Deal Blow to Flames’ Playoff Hopes
If — and likely when — the Calgary Flames miss the 2021 Stanley Cup playoffs, it will be due in large part to points they failed to gain from the Ottawa Senators.
For the sixth time this season, Calgary had no answer for Ottawa. Connor Brown scored twice, while Matt Murray turned aside 26 of 28 shots to earn his team a hard-fought 4-2 victory. Brady Tkachuk and Josh Norris also found the back of the net, with Jakob Markstrom stopping just 16 of 20.
In what is surely a massive night for the Sens Sickos, Ottawa dealt a critical blow to the Flames’ already fading playoff aspirations. With the Montreal Canadiens holding games in hand, Calgary essentially needed to run the table during the home stretch of the season, and tonight’s loss is a devastating one.
The first period ended up being fairly even, but the Senators were first to break through. Despite failing to capitalize on an early powerplay chance, Tkachuk made Jusso Valimaki pay for a bad turnover, waiting out Markstrom, and roofing the puck to make it 1-0 Ottawa
Just over a minute and a half later, though, the Flames made a rush down the ice and an Elias Lindholm shot squeaked through Murray’s five-hole. Lindholm chased down the loose puck, and poked it home to tie the game.
The period ended on a somewhat odd note, with Josh Brown and Brett Ritchie squaring off in a rather uneventful tilt.
Period two was played mainly on the perimeter. After both teams registered 11 shots apiece in the first, Calgary outshot the Senators 9-5 in the second, though they failed to convert on two Erik Brannstrom penalties.
They came close on the former of the two, but Murray made a larcenous cross-crease save on Matthew Tkachuk.
On the second Calgary powerplay, at the end of the frame, Connor Brown forced a turnover at the Ottawa blue line, and created a two-on-one opportunity. Markstrom slid across to make a great save on Nick Paul, but Brown was able to cash in the rebound, and make it 2-1 Senators with just 56 seconds remaining in the period.
Though they arguably got outplayed to that point, Ottawa entered the final 20 minutes with a lead, and a golden opportunity to win the game.
Even though the third yielded more of the same, the Senators held firm. They killed two early penalties to top killers in Paul and Brown, and were rewarded with a powerplay of their own. Brannstrom fed Norris at the top of the circle, who uncorked a bullet of a shot that beat Markstrom up high, extending the Ottawa lead to 3-1.
Michael Stone would answer just under three minutes later, on a point shot that deflected off of Nikita Zaitsev and in, but it would be far from enough.
With a minute and a half to go, the Flames pulled Markstrom for the extra attacker. Matthew Tkachuk ended up blowing a tire at his own blue line, and Brown was sent in on a breakaway to notch his second of the night, all but crippling Calgary’s playoff hopes in the form of a 4-2 defeat.
It was about as good of a road game as the Senators could hope to play, and another solid effort from Murray. Things are looking up on the final stretch of the season.
The Sens finished strong.
Murray needed to be strong tonight, and he was.
- In the second game of his return from injury, Matt Murray was sharp again. The first goal was a bit on the weak side, but Murray made some huge saves in critical moments, and gave the Senators the cushion they needed to bring it home. This is what they brought him in for.
- With an assist on Norris’ goal, Tim Stützle has three points in his last five games. Ho hum.
- Shane Pinto played just 10:49, but DJ Smith is doing a fantastic job managing his minutes. He saw favourable matchups, and even looked great on a late-game penalty kill. Perfect way to build Pinto’s confidence.
- Thomas Chabot was hobbled on more than one occasion, taking a few pucks off the body. Hopefully he’s alright.
- Erik Brannstrom finished the night second on the team with a 58.33% Corsi rating. Artem Zub is doing wonders to stabilize his game.
- Josh Norris is riding a five-game point streak, tallying eight during that span./
Up Next: The Senators begin a three-game set against the Vancouver Canucks, Thursday night at 10pm EST.