Ottawa Senators Calm the Carolina Hurricanes 4-2
Just as importantly, Erik Karlsson got two assists on the night.
Tonight's Ottawa Senators game came on the one-year anniversary of Andrew Hammond's first career NHL start. Ottawa's opponent, the Carolina Hurricanes, was coincidental, given that it was against the same Hurricanes that Robin Lehner (and Clarke MacArthur) were concussed last season, paving the way for the Hamburglar's unprecedented run. The Sens came into the game with a 2% chance of making the playoffs (per Micah McCurdy's Hockey Viz), meaning they'd need more of last year's magic to make the playoffs.
There were a reported 14 NHL scouts in attendance for the game, and mercifully for Sens fans, Alex Chiasson had a notable start. He had three solid chances early, but in each case his lack of execution let him down. On his fourth chance, a one-time slapper from the high slot, he made no mistake and fired home his second even-strength goal of the year. No question it felt good for a guy who's had an awful year:
J'ai lu sur les lèvres d'Alex Chiasson quand il a marqué son but. Le premier mot qui est sorti de sa bouche commençait par la lettre "F".— Sylvain St-Laurent (@Syl_St_Laurent) February 19, 2016
For those who are français challenged, the tweet roughly translates to: "the first word Chiasson said after scoring started with an F." It took a little while to confirm, but Nick Paul got credit for the secondary assist on that goal, giving him his first NHL point.
Ottawa had a high-energy start to the game, furthered by the fact that they took the game's first penalty but the Canes didn't even get set up on the powerplay. Of course that would be followed by the Sens getting a powerplay on which they did nothing, but you can't win 'em all. It looked like the period was gonna end perfectly for Ottawa, just when a Joakim Nordstrom point shot was tipped by Jordan Staal five-hole on Craig Anderson. With 23 seconds left in the period, the game was tied. The good news for the Sens was that Jean-Gabriel Pageau drew a high-sticking call as the period expired, meaning the team would start the second with their lacklustre powerplay. Actually, maybe that wasn't good news.
Ottawa failed to really even enter the Canes' zone really on the PP, but as it ended a series of odd-man rushes started. First, Phillip Di Giuseppe got a breakaway exiting the box that Anderson stopped. Rather than covering the puck, he left if for his defenceman who hit Bobby Ryan with a long stretch pass. Ryan was nearly in alone, but Michal Jordan managed to knock him down. A matter of seconds later, Chiasson nearly had another chance but fell for absolutely no reason.
Ottawa would re-take the lead, with Zack Smith scoring one from an angle that Eddie Lack really should've had. Importantly (for different reasons), Chris Neil and Erik Karlsson got assists. Scouts last week were reportedly looking at Smith and Neil, there were more scouts in attendance tonight, and suddenly the Sens' three most movable parts each had a point in this game. For his part, Karlsson caught back up to Jamie Benn for second in league scoring, though with the caveat that the Stars played later the same night.
Mike Hoffman did his part to leave his mark on the game, hitting yet another crossbar. According to NHL.com, that gives him a total of 10 post+crossbar hits on the season, putting him two ahead of second-place Oliver Ekman-Larsson. Paul's night would get better, as he drew a penalty. On the PP, Curtis Lazar would get an early chance, but as Lack tried to push off the post, he dislodged the net. Fans wanted a second penalty, but I think that would've been really harsh. (Unless we have video evidence of someone on the Hurricanes pulling the pegs out of the ice just before the shift.)
In what was becoming a theme, the Canes tied it up again late in the period. After Cody Ceci was off for high-sticking, Riley Nash walked in from the hashmarks and unleashed it top-corner on a helpless Anderson. And that's how the scoring ended for the period. Ottawa had a much worse period, but the score was knotted 2-2.
The third period started similarly to the previous two, with Ottawa with the early pressure, culminating in a Cody Ceci goal. It tipped off a couple of Hurricanes on its way to the net, restoring the Sens' lead. The Sens would get a PP chance, but from there the ice would slowly tilt Carolina's way, with Anderson holding down the fort and keeping his team in the game.
Coach Bill Peters made an interesting decision, pulling his goalie with 2:30 left in the third. Ottawa would keep Carolina mostly out of their zone, but without really getting a chance at the empty net. Karlsson took a shot with about a minute left from his own side of half, but it bounced funnily and went wide leading to icing. The Sens took their timeout, setting up a key offensive zone draw for both teams.
Ottawa would control most of the play from there on out too, and finally in the dying seconds Karlsson iced the game by throwing the puck out off the glass. Mark Stone got the puck and skated in far too slowly for the dying seconds, but potted it with 1.3 seconds remaining, getting Karlsson a key second assist. Later in the evening both Benn and Tyler Seguin would get two points, leaving Karlsson tied for third in the league in points with Seguin, one behind Benn.
Sens Hero: Alex Chiasson
Did his best tonight to get the Sens a good return when they trade him. That makes him a hero.
Sens Hero: Mark Stone
Got that key second point for Karlsson tonight, even if he toyed with our emotions. That makes him a hero.
Honourable Mention: Patrick Wiercioch and Chris Wideman
The only two players who finished with more than 50% of the even-strength shot attempts tonight. Amazing what having two puck-moving D on the same pairing will do for you.
Dishonourable Mention: Marc Methot-Erik Karlsson
The two worst possession players on the night. That's very, very odd. Karlsson's two points get them a pass though.
If only NHL.com could put up the highlight packages within 6 hours of the end of a game.