It wasn’t easy — it never is — but the Sens showed the progress that Coach Boucher promised in their second game of the season. Erik Karlsson continued to be his dominant self, but really, it was the encouraging play of the top-six — again — that helped the team grab the win. It helps that depth players like Chris Wideman and Ryan Dzingel chipped in with a pair of points to start their seasons off on a good note as well.
You could tell that the team wanted to send a message right away in the first, with Marc Methot and Mark Stone landing giant hits on Artturi Lehkonen and Brendan Gallagher respectively. One thing that didn’t change, though, was the team’s tendency to take poor penalties; with Marc Methot taking the team’s first infraction as he stepped up on an unsuspecting Habs player trying to enter the zone and got called for interference. It appears that Boucher wants his left defenders (Methot, Phaneuf, Borowiecki) to be aggressive at the blue-line right away to prevent controlled entries. Part of that has to do with playing to the strengths of the trio, but also to minimize their weaknesses as all three struggle with puck retrieval once the puck is in their defensive zone.
The Habs didn’t manage to get anything on the PK, and instead, it was the Senators who struck first soon afterwards. Erik Karlsson waited for the penalty to end before sending the puck quickly over to Chris Wideman who was waiting on the right-side. Wideman then found Dzingel on the stretch pass, who then utilized his great outside speed to hold off the D and get a shot on Montoya. Crucially, instead of doing a “fly-by” after the shot, Dzingel followed up on the puck and tucked Montoya’s poor rebound past him for a 1 - 0 lead six minutes into the first period. Dzingel’s speed, a weapon he used all night despite playing only 8 minutes at 5-on-5, is an extra weapon that no other current player in the bottom-six has. This stretch, culminating in the game’s first goal, caps off a 8 - 2 lead in shots for the Sens and was better than any stretch of play from Wednesday night’s win over the Leafs.
The Habs finally started to push back at around the 10 minute mark, with some good board work down low on the Sens D and Shea Weber getting his first slapshot in as a Habs player against Ottawa. Max Pacioretty also had his first (and only!) breakaway of the game at the 7:40 mark of the period off of a lob pass, but was defended excellently by the quick pivoting of Erik Karlsson — a skill that allowed him to get inside position on Patches despite the latter’s stellar outside speed.
Phil Varone took the team’s second penalty of the period as he bobbled the puck at the defensive blueline and tripped Andrew Shaw while trying to recover. The Habs PP was stronger than their first, with Weber getting around 5 shot attempts by himself on the left point — two of which were bravely blocked by Chris Kelly. Like earlier in the period, the Sens managed to strike back quickly after the successful penalty kill. Chris Wideman had a primary role to play again, as this time, he gathered the puck from a cycling Bobby Ryan at the right point. As Zack Smith settles into the high slot, Wideman flicked the puck hoping for a tip, which he got courtesy of Smith’s skate to make it 2 - 0.
The Sens had full control at the end of the period: racking up a couple more scoring chances including a beautiful attempt by Mike Hoffman through two Habs defenders, a big hit from Smith on Andrei Markov, and a drawn penalty on Torrey Mitchell as Smith and Ryan attempted to execute a two-on-one during the dying seconds of the period. Funnily enough, both the Hoffman and Smith/Ryan chances came off of poke checks on Shea Weber.
The Sens looked to build on their 13 - 6 lead in shots at the start of the second, but weren’t able to generate any on the powerplay despite a couple of creative zone entries. Kyle Turris almost scored a couple of goals thanks to some great passes from Mark Stone and Chris Wideman, but missed one and got blocked on the other. Chris Neil and Tomas Plekanec — a duo that was jawing at each other all game -- both took roughing penalties to create a 4-on-4 opportunity that quickly turned into a Sens powerplay after Alex Galchenyuk hooked Dion Phaneuf on the backcheck, but again, the Sens weren’t able to get any quality looks on the powerplay. Luckily enough for them, the Habs only managed to get 2 shots on goal during the first 13 minutes of the second period.
The tide started to shift a bit after Mark Stone got hit and went quickly to the dressing room courtesy of a Jeff Petry shoulder to the head. The play, worrisome because of Stone’s training camp concussion, wasn’t caught by the referees, but Stone quickly made his way back to the bench before missing a shift. The whole ordeal seemed to throw the Sens off though, and after a couple of solid Habs forechecks, Mike Hoffman ended up taking a roughing penalty on the always-swarming Brendan Gallagher. The Sens PK unit played the best that they had all night: extremely aggressive on the puck carrier, stick on puck in the passing lanes, winning 50-50 puck battles, and clearing the puck as soon as they got the chance. Thus, it’s ironic that the Habs ended up scoring on it. Near the end of the player advantage, a won draw led to some pitch and catch between Nathan Beaulieu and Jeff Petry. Petry, constantly involved in the game, ended up with the puck near the left faceoff dot and wired it high cross-corner on Craig Anderson. The whole sequence acts as a nice reminder on how PK% sometimes doesn’t tell the whole story as it doesn’t capture sustained pressure whereas things like shot attempts against does a better job.
Overall, the period ended with a 23 - 14 shot on goal differential for the Senators, but a 2 - 1 hockey game.
The Habs first 5-on-5 goal of the period came just three minutes into the third. Fourth liner Phillip Danault forechecked hard and eventually took the puck on a wraparound to try to squeeze it past Anderson. Karlsson charged Danault to prevent him from tucking it in, but Artturi Lehkonen beat his player to the net and poked it by Anderson short side for his first career NHL goal. It’s a poor goal against on Anderson, who has struggled his entire career against wraparounds and was unable to control the rebound to the point where Karlsson actually mouthed “how?” after the goal.
It was the start of a rough half-a-period for the Captain, who took a hard slash on the wrist from Paul Byron to draw a penalty before getting pushed down by Max Pacioretty on the ensuing man advantage to turn it into a 5-on-3. Unfortunately for our heroes in red, if there was ever a way to gift wrap some momentum for the other team, it’s likely a poor 5-on-3. The Sens unit didn’t look awful — they managed to set the puck up well — they just didn’t appear to have a plan put together afterwards. The Habs came out of the successful kill energized, which led to Pacioretty hitting the post and Paul Byron drawing an interference penalty on Dion Phaneuf. On the ensuing powerplay, the Sens are scattered defensively and although they manage to kill the penalty, Jeff Petry scores before Phaneuf can rejoin the play with a massive point shot. Suddenly, the two-goal lead was now a 3 - 2 deficit.
Although I’m sure that none if this is explicitly Boucher’s fault, it’s a bad look that the two things the coaching staff focused on in training camp — defence and special teams — ended up being the focus of Games 1 and 2 of the season respectively. Of course, the process is important, and just as the defence improved in Game 2, we’ll likely see special teams improvements in the subsequent games, but I just thought it was a fun thing to point out.
It also helps that the Sens were able to tie the game back up at 3. After Petry’s go-ahead goal, the Sens opened the game right up and were extremely aggressive offensively. The Habs did a pretty good job of preventing quality scoring chances over the bulk of the last 10 minutes by clogging the neutral zone in order to force dump-ins, but were caught by the Dzingel - Pageau - Pyatt line with two and a half minutes left. Tom Pyatt started and ended the play by creating the zone entry before dishing the puck to Pageau. As Pyatt headed for the net, Pageau touch-passed it to a streaking Ryan Dzingel, who put the puck on a platter for Pyatt to roof past Al Montoya to knot the game at 3. Erik Karlsson played 6:44 of the last 10:08 in regulation time on his way to his game high 30:37 to spearhead the Sens offensive attack as the group ended regulation with a 34 - 22 shot lead — a marked improvement over Game 1.
Unlike Wednesday night against Toronto, neither team managed to score in an exciting overtime session. The Sens took the patient approach again for the second game in a row, as the starting trio of Turris, Stone, and Karlsson took their time in setting up the odd man rush that they aim for in these situations. As a reward for their play, Pyatt and Dzingel got a 3-on-3 shift with Dion Phaneuf that featured a quality scoring chance by Dzingel that was denied by Montoya. Mike Hoffman, on the ice with Mark Stone and Erik Karlsson, likely had the best chance of the extra session off of a sweet feed from Karlsson, but missed the net wide. Hoffman, who had a rough defensive outing against Toronto, was much better tonight and skated swiftly back into the defensive zone in order to force Alexander Radulov onto his backhand on a Habs 2-on-1.
In the shootout, Turris (wrist shot, high blocker) and Radulov (backhand) both scored to start before the next four shooters were denied (Ryan - miss; Pacioretty - stopped five-hole; Brassard - crossbar; Galchenyuk - stopped by Anderson). Interestingly, Karlsson was the next one over the boards and rang the puck off of both posts while scoring blocker side.
Karlsson shootout winner pic.twitter.com/jT8J1cJHOm— Stephanie (@myregularface) October 16, 2016
David Desharnais ended up missing the puck trying to go five-hole and gave the Sens a well-deserved 4 - 3 shootout victory.
Sens clinch the shootout win pic.twitter.com/lqyLp00T2q— Stephanie (@myregularface) October 16, 2016
Sens Hero(es): Ryan Dzingel and Chris Wideman
Both played minimal minutes for the second consecutive game as Boucher really limits the ice-time of his fourth line and third pair, but were effective in the time they were on the ice. Dzingel looked sharp for the second straight game, using his speed to create separation from defenders while Wideman utilized his shot well on his way to a 63% shots for percentage at 5-on-5.
Sens Uh-Oh?: Craig Anderson
Now, it’s only been two games, but it’s the second straight one where Ol’ Chicken Fingers is under a .900 sv% while giving up another bad angle goal. The Sens will be relying heavily on the netminder who has another year left on his current contract, and bet on the fact that his lack of professional experience early on in his career will ‘make up’ for his old age. He was strong in the shootout, but will need to be better unless this group can consistently get 3 or 4 goals a game — a hard feat in today’s NHL.
Game Flow via Natural Stat Trick
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