It's a cliché that good teams know how to bounce back from their worst outings, but there's truth to the notion that absolutely every point matters for a team like the Ottawa Senators. They can ill afford any prolonged malaise. While Thursday's night tilt with the Red Wings wasn't the Sens at their finest, it was a solid enough performance. It's too early to yet know if they're a good team, but they did what they needed to do on Military Appreciation Night at the very least.
The early going of the first period was highlighted by a Cody Ceci goal that was waved off after the Red Wings challenged the play for goaltender interference. It wasn't an obvious call, but after a couple of looks at the replay there was sufficient evidence that Zack Smith had indeed impeded Jimmy Howard from making a save.
The two teams exchanged chances after that, with opportunities for Mike Hoffman and Chris Wideman off passes from Chris DiDomenico being the best of the bunch for the home team. The Wings responded with a couple of bursts of their own but neither team particularly threatened to break the ice.
Towards the end of the frame, Anthony Mantha took a run at an unsuspecting Mark Stone and knocked the Sens forward to the ice. Stone was fortunate to walk away unscathed and was clearly displeased with the Red Wings' young skater. It was a fitting coincidence, then, that Mantha was mere feet away from Stone when he scored the first goal of the game for the Sens. Never one to hide his feelings, Stone made sure Mantha knew how he felt about the whole affair:
The goal was the 200th point of Stone's career and continued his strong start to the season. All in all a mostly even first frame, with Ottawa leading 12-11 on the shot clock.
If the first period was a good, if not great, 20 minutes for the home side then the second period could not have been played much better. Ottawa dominated the shot clock to the tune of a 14-7 advantage in the stanza and at one point Detroit went nearly ten entire minutes without a shot on goal. One of the keys to the Sens success in the middle frame was Guy Boucher's decision to keep Stone with Mike Hoffman after the two were on the ice together for the goal at the end of the first. Centered by Derick Brassard, the trio dominated the Wings and generated several grade A scoring opportunities. At one stage the Sens' coach was virtually double shifting the line, sending them over the boards after every icing with Erik Karlsson and Dion Phaneuf to take advantage of tired Detroit skaters. Combined with some impressive work from the Kyle Turris-Ryan Dzingel-Zack Smith line, it was one of the team's best stretches of play at 5v5 of the season.
All of the pressure would eventually pay off when Alexandre Burrows buried a beautiful feed from (who else?) Stone on the power play:
The Sens' second power play of the evening towards the end of the period was not so successful, however, and only a bouncing puck prevented Dylan Larkin from getting in alone on Anderson short-handed after a bad bass from Chis DiDomenico got behind Karlsson. Niklas Kronwall and Ryan Dzingel then took offsetting penalties in the last minute of the frame and the two teams entered the third at 4v4.
The third period was a throwback to last season where the Sens displayed a ''bend but don't break'' mentality to protecting a lead. There's room for debate as to how much passivity is too much passivity, but after giving up a couple of third period leads early this season there's also something to be said for just hanging on and getting two points. The Sens mostly kept the Wings at bay, even if the only real chance Ottawa generated in the frame was a Brassard breakaway off a steal in the neutral zone. Howard was up to the task, however, and that save set the game up for a tense final few minutes when the Red Wings struck with 3:23 remaining on the power play and the goalie pulled. It was only when Nate Thompson iced the game with an empty net goal that the fans breathed a bit easier. Mission accomplished, as it were.
- Mark Stone has probably been the Sens' best player of this young season, and he was easily the best tonight. He notched a goal and an assist and was generally a terror all over the ice.
- Kyle Turris looked a little bit rusty; he mishandled several pucks and failed to make the type of impact plays we've come to expect from him
- Craig Anderson didn't need to be spectacular, but 24 saves on 25 shots is a solid performance by any measure
- Dylan Larkin showed off all the skills that made him such a hot prospect a couple of years ago. He struggled badly last season, but the tools are there for him to be an impact player for years to come/
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