Karlsson’s three points help Sens double up Leafs, 6-3

Sens improve to 10-1-2 in their last 13 games against Toronto (really!)

The bets coming into the game would suggest that if one team was going to score six goals, it would be Toronto. Well, Erik Karlsson, Derick Brassard, Mark Stone, and co. had something to say about that.

Tonight ended as a high-scoring affair, but it certainly didn’t start that way. Through two periods, Guy Boucher’s hard match of Ryan - Brassard - Stone, Phaneuf - Ceci vs. Matthews worked like a charm: Matthews had no shots on goal, didn’t look dangerous, and the shots when he was on the ice came from the perimeter.

Meanwhile, it was Ottawa who was flooding the front of the net with opportunities, and of course, it was Erik Karlsson — who finished the night with three assists to make it 25 points in 23 career games against Toronto — who led the way. In his first two shifts, the Captain set up Johnny Oduya for a scoring chance, got bumped by Matt Martin in the D-zone, almost levelled William Nylander with a hip-check, and made a crisp zone exit that led to a Mike Hoffman scoring chance.

Speaking of Hoffman, he was outstanding tonight. Second among forwards in 5-on-5 ice-time tonight with a shade above 17 minutes, Hoffman had 5 shots on net, finished with a 50% CF%, and used his speed to generate a ton of chances (the one below off an excellent lob pass “Karlsson” from Chris Wideman).

I also thought Logan Brown looked fantastic tonight, and so did Guy Boucher, as he rewarded Brown with a season-high 10:48. First, Brown picked off an errant Leafs zone exit in the offensive zone and used his offensive instincts to cut into the middle of the ice in order to generate a dangerous scoring chance; it didn’t go in, but Brown drew a penalty on the play. Later on that period, Thompson - Brown - Burrows outwork the Kadri line down low, with a mad scramble in front leading to Nate Thompson goal to make it 1-0 Ottawa, with Brown picking up his first NHL point on the play.

Brown continued to play regularly throughout the second period, got a couple of shifts with Hoffman and Turris, and almost scored off a tip play from Karlsson, but sat for most of the third period.

Ottawa continued to mount pressure on the Leafs in the second, utilizing a smart neutral zone press to pick off any Leafs passes through the neutral zone and generate offensive zone pressure. It was rare for Ottawa to cycle the puck continuously, but on one such instance, they were rewarded with the second goal of the game. Here, Turris and Burrows works the puck back up to the right point, where Chris Wideman sends the puck over to the left side where Erik Karlsson (!) is waiting. Karlsson sends a hard half-slapper through to the net that Ryan Dzingel manages to tip through Connor Carrick and past Frederik Andersen for a 2-0 lead.

After the Leafs killed a faceoff violation penalty (there were a ton of faceoffs tonight and many players were thrown out but only one violation), the Matthews line nearly takes advantage of Jean-Gabriel Pageau’s broken stick. However, the Sens bend but don’t break, and manage to get a full change. Shortly thereafter, with <30 seconds left in the period, Karlsson decides to casually send a bank pass through the neutral zone where the puck’s scooped up by Bobby Ryan. Ryan then sends a sweet cross-ice feed to a wide-open Derick Brassard, who gathers the puck from skate-to-stick and pots it by Andersen with 12.1 seconds left to send the Senators into the second intermission with a 3-0 lead.

The third period is where the game got hectic, and you could feel the tides turn early when Bobby Ryan got a shot to the hand and left the ice in pain. Ryan, who’s had about 5 hand-related injuries as an Ottawa Senator, didn’t return to the game — a shame considering how well he’d played this year (and especially tonight). [Update: Ryan will be out at least a month with a broken index finger]

The Leafs then start to pressure Craig Anderson, who stops in-tight opportunities on Connor Brown and saves Matthews’ first shot of the night right in front of the net. Ryan Dzingel, guarantor of a turnover earlier in the game, gives one right back; his overhead pass is knocked down and the puck eventually works its way from Connor Brown to Ron Hainsey, who lets a point shot fly. The shot is tipped by James van Riemsdyk and squeaks past Anderson to get the Leafs on the board.

The Leafs almost score on their next two shifts, with Anderson making stellar saves on Zach Hyman in-tight and on Tyler Bozak after a cross-ice feed from Brown. Unfortunately for Anderson, the seige continues, and this time, Auston Matthews finally gets in on the action. Starting from the defensive zone, Matthews plays give-and-go with William Nylander and rips it five-hole past Anderson to bring the Leafs within one.

Guy Boucher, clearly enraged, calls a timeout where he rips into his team. Mark Stone got the message.

Mark Stone’s goal (with an assist to Nikita Zaitsev!) is the quickest ‘response’ goal in Sens history, and put the Sens up 4-2. Erik Karlsson also appeared to get the message, almost willing another Sens goal with two great scoring chances (including this one where he fights off Jake Gardiner and Auston Matthews), but is unable to finish.

A guy who may not have gotten the message? Alex Burrows, who takes a penalty shortly after on Morgan Rielly in the neutral zone that comes back to bite Ottawa via a William Nylander powerplay tally to make it 4-3.

The last five minutes are high-pace with a ton of defensive breakdowns; Tom Pyatt and Ryan Dzingel nearly scoring for Ottawa while Zach Hyman and Nazem Kadri coming close for Toronto. The biggest chance of them all, though, is a sequence where Johnny Oduya flubs a defensive zone D-to-D pass that’s meant for Erik Karlsson, but goes straight to a forechecking Mitch Marner. Thankfully for Ottawa, Anderson is alert and makes a blocker save. The puck goes straight to Erik Karlsson, who lob passes it through the neutral zone to the Stone-Brassard duo. Stone knocks down the puck in full stride and Derick Brassard zips through the offensive zone, wiring the puck past Freddie Andersen for a 5-3 Sens lead.

Brass and Stone hook up again with the net empty, with Brassard doing the work to get the puck out of the defensive zone and to #61, who fires it into the empty net from the neutral zone to seal the deal. The Sens finish the night holding the Leafs to <30 shots on goal and a season-low 1.79 expected goals (while finishing with 3.6 xG), thoroughly deserving the win.

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