For Ottawa, the game wasn't necessarily a must-win. The Senators began the game eight points out of a playoff spot and their postseason likelihood stood at 0.4%. But for Minnesota, it was a completely different situation. Sitting tied for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference with the Colorado Avalanche, the Wild were in desperation mode.
And they started strong.
A man who has faced a ton of scrutiny for his poor defensive play over the past couple months, Mike Hoffman would gain no such sympathy from critics early on in the night's affair.
After Erik Karlsson stole the puck at the red line and engineered an odd-man rush, Hoffman looked to make a cross-ice pass to the captain coming into the zone, but it was picked off. Minnesota skated down on a 2-on-1, leaving Mike Kostka and Craig Anderson helpless, as Nino Niederreiter snapped home a wrist shot short side.
As quickly as the game had started, the Wild jumped out to 1-0 lead.
The rest of the period would be handled rather neatly by Minnesota, but at least the Senators would fair far better than their division rival Detroit Red Wings.
Just end the playoff streak right now pic.twitter.com/laICPF4n3I— Wings Nation (@thewingsnation) March 16, 2016
Continuing the trend of the snoozefest that was the first 20 minutes, the Senators and Wild went nearly 10 minutes without a shot on goal in the first half of the second period.
By my rough math, the #Sens and Wild went a stretch of 9:11 in the first period without either team recording a shot on goal.— Bruce Garrioch (@SunGarrioch) March 16, 2016
It wasn't all bad, though. Parents were able to get their kids to sleep with ease on a school night.
Ottawa's offensive juggernauts would finally give the fans something to cheer about 14 minutes into the second frame.
On a set play that we've seen so many times, the faceoff was won back to Karlsson who waited for Hoffman to drop back to the blue line before feeding him the puck. Hoffman walked in a few feet, toe dragged around a pressuring forward and wired his 26th of the season past Devan Dubnyk.
Early on in the third period, right after the Wild had killed off another Senators power play, Ryan Carter stepped out of the penalty box, went straight to the net and batted a pass out of the air past a surprised Anderson. The 34-year-old goaltender looked to be poke-checking for some reason as the puck was whacked out of mid air. But either way, Minnesota had the lead once again.
Plain and simple, most of the game was an absolute bore.
Closing in on the final 2 minutes, the Senators still only have a total of 13 shots on goal. Some (most) nights, this team is unwatchable.— Callum Fraser (@CallumFraser18) March 16, 2016
The Senators went a total of 23 minutes with only a single shot on goal.
Hold on. Let me repeat that. One shot in 23 minutes.
But like they have so many times this season, just when you're fed up and tired of watching, they do something, well, something like this.
And then, of course, they do something like this.
Because of course they did.
Sens Hero: Erik Karlsson
He's simply amazing. With three points on the night, and the main reason the Senators were winners, Karlsson's phenomenal performance put fuel on the fire that is likely his third Norris Trophy campaign and enraged the Drew Doughty truthers.
Sens Hero: Mark Stone
The way he corralled the puck on the tying goal, putting it on net while being surrounded by the opposition, is yet another example of the Senators' best forward being the consistent game-changer that he is.
Sens Hero: Mika Zibanejad
With 7.1 seconds left on the clock, the 22-year-old sent a whole lot of Sens fans back to their seats.