The Ottawa Senators headed down the 401 for a provincial clash with the Maple Leafs tonight.
In one corner, a team that was going through a sluggish start - by their standards - but have looked of late like the perennial playoff team they are.
In the other corner, a team who would be thrilled if someone described their start as just sluggish but were coming off a win against Pittsburgh which they hoped to turn into something much bigger.
This one started out with some back and forth. The chances were relatively even, although possession metrics favoured the Leafs, but it was Toronto who drew first blood. About five minutes in, Auston Matthews' wrister glanced off the skate of Matthew Knies and beat Joonas Korpisalo low blocker side.
While the old Senators would have done something silly like allow another goal on the next shift to remove every bit of wind out of their sails, the new... wait, nope. That's what happened. Just 23 seconds later, Tyler Bertuzzi made it 2-0 for Toronto. That score would hold into the first intermission. At this stage, the Leafs were clearly the better of the two squads.
The second period was much better, which feels odd to say. The Sens came out pressuring, out attempting the Leafs 10-5 through the first eight minutes of the frame. Just over halfway in, Parker Kelly found the back of the net while out on the penalty kill.
On the very same penalty kill, Claude Giroux stripped a puck and got himself all alone. Unfortunately, the puck rolled off his stick in tight and he couldn't convert. The Sens almost had a shot at dishing out what they so frequently take with two quick goals.
Alas, it remained 2-1.
With just five minutes left, the Senators brought things right back to even thanks to a fantastic series of shifts from the top nine. On this one, Tim Stützle carried the puck in and fired a shot off the pad of Martin Jones, leaving a juicy rebound for Drake Batherson to bury.
The Senators would finish off the second period with some penalty trouble, forcing them to kick off the final frame in the box. Fortunately, they killed it off and Batherson was, once again, able to find the back of the net to give Ottawa its first lead of the match. Clever tally or weak shot from an angle Martin Jones would like back? Either way, the Sens had their first lead of the night:
As time dwindled, Ottawa maintained their lead while spending far more time than any Sens fan would have liked in their own zone. For much of the game following Ottawa's third goal, Toronto felt like they had an extra skater. Everything was going to the net and Korpisalo was leaned on heavily. The good news is that the Finnish netminder was on his game, holding the line and ensuring the team in front of him had every opportunity to close this one out.
With just under three minutes left, Brady Tkachuk iced it with an empty netter.
- Offensively, Drake Batherson led the charge today. He had both the game tying and game winning goal. It's especially important to note that both markers came at even strength. Since December 1st, the right winger has seven goals and nine assists for 16 points in 13 games.
- Another game, another assist for Tim Stützle. Ho hum. The German pivot has a goal and six assists on his six game point streak.
- After a shaky first period, Korpisalo settled nicely into this one. In part, I think it's because the team in front of him did, too. Not to take anything away from his .944 SV%, of course. When it was needed, Korpisalo stood tall and bailed out his team. But he didn't need to for as much of this game as he's used to, which is a win all around for the club.
- Tkachuk had an emphatic celebration after scoring into the empty net, giving the fans a few "woos" on his way by. While the Battle of Ontario is obviously important to the captain, this was also the 300th point of his career. Not bad, kid.
- It was great to see Vladimir Tarasenko chipping in up front tonight, with a pair of assists to give him three in his last three games.
- The only blueliner to register a point was, you guessed it, Travis Hamonic.
- He's not expected to contribute offensively often but Parker Kelly's shorthanded goal sees him exceed his points total for last season in 25 fewer games.
- While he had a strong game, Josh Norris' five game goal streak came to an end tonight when the final buzzer rang and Neuf was left off the scoresheet.