Say what you will about this Ottawa Senators season, but the players are finally walking the walk and talking the talk about playing with intensity. They weren't quite as strong as they'd been in the previous two games, but the Sens came back to tie the game with a minute left in the game to salvage a point. The point's meaningless with the Sens eliminated from the playoffs, but it's a representation of the tenacity this team's bringing to their games right now.
The game started out well, with Ottawa's re-energized fourth line contributing as Jarkko Ruutu beat Martin Brodeur to give Ottawa the lead. Brian Gionta and Brian Rolston scored 46 seconds apart in the second period to give New Jersey the lead, though, and Ottawa found themselves down going into the third. Ottawa couldn't beat Brodeur, though, until Dany Heatley converted a Jason Spezza pass with Ottawa's goalie pulled to send the game into extra time. Nothing of note in overtime, and despite Daniel Alfredsson's shootout goal Ottawa lost the game.
Back to that fourth line: Amazing. I'm usually a sucker for fourth lines, but this one's really something to look forward to next year. Ruutu brings some degree of skill, and his pestmanship is among the best in the league. I'm not sure if Jesse Winchester is a clutch player or if he's just found his comfort level, but he might have been Ottawa's best player tonight: He had two assists, two shots, five hits, and Heatley's tying goal was due in large part to Winchester outmuscling Colin White behind the Jersey net. And Christoph Schubert has come back into favour in Ottawa, at least in my books, thanks to his strong, fast, physical (albeit offensively lacking) game, and he had four hits tonight. It's a pretty young line that may change next season, as Winchester may be bumped up a line or two and Cody Bass and Zack Smith get a shot in Ottawa, but it's a heck of a line to watch.
Winchester also got into his third NHL fight on the night, after Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond took exception to a clean hit Winnie threw. I don't think Winchester threw a punch, but he can grapple with the best, and contained Leblond pretty well to hold his own. Wasn't a favourable decision for Winch, but it was a demonstration of the toughness he can (and will) bring.
Heatley's torrid goal-scoring pace continued with his goal against the Devils, and he's now got four in the last three games and 39 on the season. Not that it's anything new for Heatley; I think in his first two seasons with Ottawa, his 50th goals were scored in the last or second-last games of the year.
That was the Sens' last home game of the year, unfortunately breaking their nine-game home winning streak. The last game overall is on Saturday in Toronto, and it would be terrific to take that game and end the year on a real high note for Ottawa.
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