The Senators came to St Louis to face the Blues having lost three straight and having not scored in more than 135 minutes of play. Hoping for a win, most Sens fans were thinking they'd like to at the very least see their team score a goal.
Very early in the game, Mika Zibanejad took a high stick and left immediately with what was called a facial injury, but looked frighteningly like an eye injury.
Shortly thereafter, Carl Gunnarsson would play some interesting defence on Zack Smith, which was called a hook , sending Ottawa to the powerplay. Ottawa would get some good chances with Brian Elliott looking quite unsure as to where the puck was, but they couldn't score. There was one play in particular in which the puck squirted through the crease but Smith took forever to notice and then couldn't get his stick on it. With 30 seconds left in the PP, Alex Chiasson would get his stick up into Colton Parayko's skates on a clearing attempt, sending the teams to a short burst of 4-on-4 followed by a shortened Blues powerplay.
On the penalty kill, Vladimir Tarasenko had a great chance walking out, but Andrew Hammond was able to save the puck essentially straight in the air. For all the shakiness Elliott was showing, it's important to remember that Hammond has looked just as shaky lately.
From that point, the game was actually pretty quiet. The highlight for the next part of the game was an interview with Chris Wideman's parents, happy to see their son back at the arena he used to watch games at as a kid. It was actually kind of cute seeing how much the St. Louis broadcasters were gushing over a local boy coming home.
A bit of a misplay opened the scoring. The Blues would pick up the puck in the neutral zone. Patrick Wiercioch seemed to misread the play, skating toward his partner in the middle of the ice, which allowed Troy Brouwer to get a step on him. That's all Brouwer needed, bullying his way to the net and shovelling it home.
On further inspection, it looks like Hammond went down far too early, giving Brouwer all kinds of time to realize he needed to put the puck high. Still, it's tough to see Wiercioch make a mistake like that which ends up in his own net.
Shane Prince was in my opinion the most noticeable Sens player of the period, and nothing exemplified that more than a sweet play he had in the dying minutes of the period to dangle through the Blues' defence and then snap a shot high that Elliott managed to stop. Still, it was a clear example to me of why he should be getting more offensive minutes. Just as it looked the period would go out with a fizzle, Max McCormick took on Gunnarsson in a fight. McCormick seemed to take exception to cross-check from Steen, but Gunnarsson was much more willing to drop the gloves. Gunnarsson actually has no fights recorded on hockeyfights.com -- it was McCormick's third NHL fight, despite having only 9 NHL games compared to Gunnarsson's 406.
Ottawa had the lead in shots, 13-11, but were down by a goal. It seems like every time Ottawa outshoots the opposition they get outscored. I think at this point the sample size is big enough to say that there is no correlation between shots and goals. Still, the Sens would enter the second period against one of the league's better teams looking like they were holding their own. To stem the optimism, the announcement came out just before the start of the period that Zibanejad would not return to the game.
St. Louis would get most of the pressure of the opening of the period. After a couple shifts in Ottawa's zone, Shane Prince would be forced into a penalty after a beautiful cross-ice pass to Tarasenko left him with a wide-open net. To me, it looked like Prince had fought for position and been stronger, but I can see how it could be called a penalty. Regardless, Ottawa would have another PK to deal with. And on the PP, the Blues seemed to be able to do what they wanted, with Robby Fabbri even hitting the crossbar-post intersection. Thankfully, Pageau and Stone were able to get on right after that and forecheck hard, making it difficult for the Blues to get set up again.
Not much later, Mark Stone would fall and get his stick up into the hands of Stastny, sending the Blues right back to the PP. Since Jean-Gabriel Pageau is the league's lead shothanded goal-scorer, a part of me wondered if taking penalties was Dave Cameron's new strategy to finally get the Sens a goal. However, putting one of the team's top penalty-killing forwards in the box seemed like a bad idea. Some great puck movement on the PP kept possession for the Blues, which finally led to Kevin Shattenkirk unleashing from the point. David Backes screened Hammond well who never saw the shot, which hit the post to his right and snuck in.
The response shift to the goal was Prince with Smith and Chris Neil, proving that Prince's penalty was seen as a good thing by Coach Cameron. Prince actually managed to make a nice zone entry, flipping the puck to Neil who got a decent shot away.
I watched the rest of the period, but I didn't really know what to write about. The Blues had some chances, the Sens got some time in the Blues' zone but couldn't do much with it. Ottawa looked every bit like a team that expected they'd never score a goal again. Some late pressure by the... fourth line? the Smith line? nah, the Prince line... led to a holding penalty when Gunnarsson continued his gooning ways by grabbing Neil's stick. On the PP, Mike Hoffman was put on the top powerplay for the first time in a month, and paid immediate dividends by scoring. Elliott failed to squeeze his arm to his side fast enough, and Hoffman's knuckler hit the blocker and his side before trickling in. It ended the shutout streak at 174:24.
Ottawa would be outshot 14-7 in the second, but that late goal seemed to salvage what was mostly a forgettable period.
Ottawa would come out in the third firing everything at the net. It seemed they were instructed to put the puck on goal from anywhere in the intermission. And it would work, after Jay Bouwmeester took a tripping penalty against Hoffman. Four seconds into the powerplay, Bobby Ryan wristed it on goal from the point and beat Elliott high, tying the game.
Incidentally, that was Ryan's 200th career goal. Shortly after, David Backes would crash Hammond's net, and Mark Borowiecki took exception, hitting him in the head a few times. I was surprised to see neither player get a penalty. The third period would feature the creation of the Prince-Pageau-Ryan line, which was probably Ottawa's second line considering Zibanejad was out. Hoffman back on the top unit and Prince in the top six seemed like quite the gift. Too bad Cameron missed Christmas by a week and a half.
Staring with about eight minutes left in the period, the Blues seemed to have all the pressure. Ottawa could just watch as shift after shift the Blues regrouped and got another round of sustained pressure in the Sens' zone. Staying close in the shot department all game, the Sens were starting to fall well behind. The good news was that Hammond's glove had got hot and was keeping out everything they threw at him. The Sens seemed to notice what I was saying, because they buckled it down a bit more from there. Each team had its chances, but regulation ended in a tie, sending the game to 3-on-3 OT.
The opening overtime line of Turris, Hoffman, and Karlsson would get stuck out there for what seemed like forever, and late in their shift Tarasenko got a near-breakaway in which Hoffman got his stick on Tarasenko's and the latter fell down. The St. Louis commentators were calling for a penalty shot, but to my eyes it looked like he'd started to fall before any contact was made. Besides, Tarasenko then proceeded to knock Hammond over while falling to the net. The Blues had a couple more great chances but bobbled the puck each time. When Ottawa finally got a change, Stone and Ryan got into the offensive zone but Ryan blew a tire. Amazingly, Chris Wideman held the line, allowing Stone and Ryan to bust back in two-on-one. Stone feathered a beautiful one to Ryan, who pulled a shootout-esque deke before backhanding the puck past a hapless Elliott into the open net. Ottawa had to claw back to do it, but they won 3-2 in overtime.
That goal also gave Chris Wideman his first assist of his NHL career. I wonder if you keep that puck after you've already scored four goals? It was nice to see the Sens win, to see them actually score goals, to get the powerplay going, but if Zibanejad is out long-term, there will be issues for this team. Get well soon Mika!
Sens Hero: Bobby Ryan
Going into OT, I was debating if he was a hero or just an honourable mention. But with the OT winner, you gotta give it to the guy with three points on the night. The Sens needed Bobby to bust out of his slump in a big way, and he delivered tonight.
Honourable Mention: Shane Prince
I thought he was the best Sens player through two periods, and Cameron noticed enough to give him minutes in the top six in the third period. That's a big step up from being benched. Have to think he'll get a real shot to perform if Zibanejad is out long-term.
Honourable Mention: Max McCormick
He takes a lot of flack, and he still felt the need to fight tonight, but he did some other good things too. He had a couple good takeaways on the backcheck, and I even noticed one hit he dished out on the forecheck and then stripped the puck from the defending player. That's what I'd like to see from him - reliable play that gets Ottawa possession back. Plus he was the best #fancystats Sens player by a mile tonight, so I figure I should point it out. Dave Cameron, if you're reading this, please don't put him back in the top six though.
Karlsson exhaustion watch: 28:50
Karlsson actually played less than 30 minutes tonight, which is a nice change from recent games. That was mostly made possible through the emergence of Fredrik Claesson, who looked solid in 20:46 (!!) of ice time in just his third NHL game. The least-played defenceman on the team, Chris Wideman, still played 16:27. This is the kind of balanced ice time I can get behind.