Christmas may have ended, but the Senators got a late present going into the game: a Bruins team that had already played the night before. The extra rest over Christmas allowed Erik Karlsson to recover from his near-70 minutes over the last two games, and for Bobby Ryan to rest his injured finger. With Curtis Lazar out, Max McCormick got his second call-up of the season, taking the fourth-line centre spot Ryan Dzingel had in the previous game.
The game started with a little bit of back-and-forth, but nothing too exciting. The goalies needed to be sharp, but not too sharp. The forwards got some pressure for each team, but nothing too ridiculous. It wasn't until about halfway through the period that the Brad Marchand/Patrice Bergeron tandem got some solid zone time for the Bs. Shortly after, some great work by Ryan and Mike Hoffman in the Bs' zone led to Adam McQuaid cross-checking Mika Zibanejad into the net, giving the Sens a powerplay. (If that doesn't make sense, it didn't really make sense to me either. Maybe McQuaid isn't very good at hockey.) Ottawa really didn't get anything going on the PP, partially thanks to some good PK work by the Bruins but also due to some sloppy play by the Sens.
Late in the period, Frank Vatrano got rocked in the head by Mark Borowiecki. Boro definitely made head contact, but Vatrano was also bent over so I don't see a suspension coming, especially because there was no injury. Jimmy Hayes tried to fight Boro but mostly just managed to lose his balance. Still, it was enough for Hayes to get the instigator penalty. Ottawa went to the powerplay, where Mark Stone would bank a puck in off Dennis Seidenberg's skate for the go-ahead goal with 19 seconds left in the period. Overall, Boston carried the run of play, evidenced by the 16-10 shot differential that was generous to the Sens since they had two powerplays to the Bruins' zero. But Ottawa had the lead where it mattered: in goals.
The period started with a very obvious uncalled penalty on Stone, but I'm not going to complain about refereeing when Ottawa has the lead. I probably already complain too much anyway. A 4-on-1 chance for the Bruins was played poorly by Max Talbot who elected to just go in and shoot, but some pushing by Talbot after the Craig Anderson save led to a retaliation penalty by McCormick. The Sens' PK managed to handle that pretty easily.
David Krejci had some nifty stickwork to get himself out in front, but Anderson stood tall and managed to trap it on the goal line under his left skate. Or so we thought. After extensive review, it was determined the puck actually did cross the line. I couldn't see it from any of the camera angles, but Toronto decided it was a goal. After the awarded goal, the Bruins managed to hem the Sens in their zone for a full shift. Ottawa was back on their heels. Another set of sloppy play forced Chris Neil into taking Ottawa's second penalty of the game, a tripping call. Ottawa's PK didn't look as solid as the first time around, but did enough again to survive the shorthanded situation.
With four minutes left in the period, Boston hit the 30-shot mark, marking the fifth consecutive game in which Andy faced more than 30 shots, and the 21st time all season. But with the period winding down, Ottawa would strike again. A Ryan rebound fell to Mika Zibanejad, and McQuaid did his part to help the Sens out again by getting in Tuukka Rask's way. This allowed Z-bad to beat Rask high, giving the Sens their second lead of the game. Ottawa may have been behind 31-17 in shots, but once again they had the lead at the end of the period.
For a team that was dominating yet down by a goal, the Bruins didn't seem to come out with much urgency in the third. They didn't really get a scoring chance until four minutes into the period. A good backcheck by defensive standout Mike Hoffman prevented a near-sure goal on a sweet forehand-backhand move by Brad Marchand. It was noted that Krejci didn't come out to start the period which may have affected the team's performance. After an awkward collision late in the second, Krejci would not play a minute in the third.
The Sens would continue to struggle in their own zone, with a few good chances to clear the zone stymied by poor passes or bad giveaways. The Sens really looked content to try to keep the puck in the neutral zone, hoping their goalie could bail them out when that plan failed. Which to be fair is the kind of strategy that has kept the Sens in a playoff spot for most of the year.
After a tonne of action which meant the commercial break after the 10:00 mark happened with under five minutes left in the period, Chris Neil would come close to extending Ottawa's lead by shooting it off the crossbar. It was a nice snipe from a guy not known for his shot. And that would basically do it for the game. With under a minute left, Stone hit the empty net on a backhand from centre ice. The win would jump Ottawa up to two points off the division lead, though that still leaves them fifth in the division.
The top 5 teams in the Atlantic Division are now separated by just 2 points.— Ian Mendes (@ian_mendes) December 28, 2015
The shots in the third period were "only" 8-5 for Boston, which was pretty unimpressive for a team that needed a tying a goal. Still, it was pretty clear who the Sens' hero was.
Sens Hero: Craig Anderson
Andy finished by allowing one goal on 39 shots, but many think the goal shouldn't even have counted due to lack of conclusive video evidence. Still, a .974 is nothing to scoff at. Ottawa would be in much, much worse shape without their goalies holding them in games. He's now faced 973 shots on the season, while no other goalie has even faced 900. His workload has been unreal, and thankfully he's been able to handle it.
Honourable Mention: Mark Stone
He got two goals tonight, and though neither were particularly special, that's worth mentioning. He and Turris also looked pretty good tonight. Two more points put him at 31 points in 34 games putting him on pace for 73 points in 80 games assuming he doesn't get any more microfractures or suspensions. Anyone who thinks he's having a disappointing season needs to re-evaluate their expectations for the guy.
They didn't do anything egregiously bad, but they got beat out to be Pageau's wingers by Neil and McCormick. That isn't good. Oh, and for the stats-inclined, they were the team's worst possession players on the night. Dizzy was on the ice for a grand total of one Sens shot attempt all night. Even for a guy in a checking role, that's pretty awful.
Rant space: (Feel free to ignore if you're tired of ranting)
For a brief moment, it looked like we might see something great tonight. There were a couple shifts of Wiercioch with Wideman in the first period, a couple shifts of Prince with Turris and Stone in the second, but then Cameron went back to how things were. I know Wiercioch hasn't had a great season, but neither have Boro or Cowen or Ceci. There is evidence Wiercioch can be a top-four d-man; you can't say the same for any of the other three. Smith has been playing well, but he's not a top-line winger. If Prince isn't going to get that top-line spot, I want Puempel called up to take it. Smith is a hustling checking guy who scores opportunistically - he's wasted with the team's top playmakers. Ottawa is having trouble with injuries, but other decisions seem to be weighing the team down too. I was hopeful this game would show promise of things to come, but it only served to just make me more bitter when Smith was back out on the top line to start the third. As long as the coach thinks this team just needs everyone to play like Max McCormick to win, the team will have poor defensive showings and depend on its goalie to win.