A rematch of the classic 2017 Stanley Cup Finals. It felt good to be back in the building where the Ottawa Senators won the Cup...er...wait a second...
The Nashville Predators have been a surprisingly good team this season, sitting in the first wildcard spot heading into tonight. So a game in “Smashville” wasn’t going to be an easy task for the Senators.
Just 58 seconds into the game, Ottawa got a nice break as Matias Ekholm took a delay of game penalty (puck over the glass). While they were unable to convert on that chance, the Predators somehow took another four minor penalties in the first period while Ottawa stayed out of the box. Luke Kunin got a tripping minor 3:42 into the game, and then Tanner Jeannot would put them down two men after a hook on Tim Stützle.
Ottawa was given a golden opportunity early on, and thankfully Brady Tkachuk would capitalize:
Although it wasn’t the prettiest finish, it was a good example of the puck movement that the powerplay is capable of. At one of the commercial breaks, former long-time Predator Austin Watson was honoured by their fans, which was a nice gesture:
Eeli Tolvanen and Colton Sissons got the other two penalties before the period ended, but it was Nashville who benefitted from some great luck on their end. A weak dump-in took a strange bounce, and because Anton Forsberg was unable to leave his “trapezoid,” Michael McCarron was able to steal the puck and tie the game at 1:
It’s tough to blame Forsberg on that because 99 times out of 100, that puck bounces straight to his stick. Despite almost an entire period of powerplay time, it was 1-1 after 20 minutes.
Although Sissons put Ottawa on the powerplay to begin the second period, Drake Batherson would negate that just 50 seconds in. After five straight powerplays, it was fair to expect the next one to go against the Senators. The next closest chance actually came from Batherson, as Tkachuk came streaking in on a breakaway, with Drake not far behind him. Tkachuk probably should have just shot, but he deked and made a drop-pass to Batherson, who was stopped by the athletic Juuse Saros.
Not long after, our old pal Matt Duchene somehow missed a wide-open net that had the potential to change the momentum:
Duchene* pic.twitter.com/zgNiO4MrHJ— Pesky Sickos (@PeskySickos) March 30, 2022
Halfway through the game, it was strange that the score was only 1-1 despite all the powerplays and the close chances. In fact, Stützle missed a phenomenal chance right in front after a great saucer pass from Batherson. Alas, Saros is one of the best goalies in the league for a reason.
At one point, it looked like there was going to be some more bad news on the injury front. Josh Norris took a careless hit from Mikael Granlund to the head. The intent wasn’t there, but his loose arm was reckless and looked like it might’ve injured Norris at first:
Josh Norris catches an elbow up high. He’s returning but clearly in some discomfort. They’re checking his jaw. pic.twitter.com/ooHgf71hCA— Everyday Sens (@EverydaySens) March 30, 2022
Luckily he returned to the bench shortly after, avoiding yet another injury to one of their stars.
Ottawa continued to play quite well the rest of the period, as it looked like they were going to inevitably take the next lead. However, with just 1:46 left, McCarron would get his second of the night. Ekholm had the puck on the left side of the offensive zone, and he threw the puck to the net, hoping someone was going to get to it. McCarron was somehow wide open as the Senators were caught watching the puck. McCarron slightly fanned on the puck, but it slid through Forsberg’s five-hole to give Nashville the 2-1 lead.
Mathieu Joseph would then take a hooking penalty not long after, giving the Predators a chance to take control of the game before the final intermission. But Connor Brown almost had something to say about that...He went down on yet another short-handed breakaway and drew a penalty shot:
However, Saros was up to the task and was able to stop Brown on the attempt. So it was 2-1 Nashville after 40 minutes.
Ottawa’s lethal penalty kill counterattack didn’t stop there, as Alex Formenton had a chance early in the third period as well, giving them hope that the tying goal was just around the corner. In fact, Jeannot would take another penalty 1:22 into the period, which was a perfect time to get back in the game. Despite some chances though, nothing came of it.
As the clock wound down, it was looking like it was going to be one of those frustrating nights where they are deserving of a better fate but run into a hot goaltender. With 9:53 left in the game, Jeannot would make that even more likely, as he made it 3-1 Nashville after some nifty passing down low.
The Senators didn’t give up there, because being down by two with half a period to go wasn’t insurmountable. The only problem was Saros was absolutely electric. Forsberg was pulled for the extra attacker with over two minutes to play, but nothing would come of it, and after a last-second empty-netter, the Predators ended up with the 4-1 victory over the Senators. A somewhat frustrating loss, mainly because it was a very winnable game.
- Drake Batherson continues to noticeably be Ottawa’s best forward, and you can tell how much more creative they are when he’s on the ice. It’s great to have him back.
- Mathieu Joseph played 14:19 tonight, and I’d love to see more of him. Playing with Chris Tierney as his centre is doing him no favours, and it’d be good to give him different linemates.
- Juuse Saros stopped 36 of 37 shots and was the biggest difference-maker tonight.
- Josh Norris played a whopping 22:09, mainly due to how many powerplays Ottawa had. Only scoring once during that time is not good enough, despite how well Saros played.
- It’s so strange that Michael Del Zotto had the most ice time amongst defensemen (21:18) after being in the AHL a few games ago. Then again, they don’t have many better options for defensemen who can move the puck./