The first period of this game went about as well as the Ottawa Senators could have hoped against a Vegas team currently sitting atop the Western Conference standings. The Jack Eichel line came out firing, as one would expect, but Cam Talbot had arguably his best start so far as a Senator and helped Ottawa weather the early storm while the rest of the team found its legs. The Sens, it seemed, sacrificed some five-on-five offence to play a sounder game and it payed dividends throughout the period. The Sens used the boards, made shorter passes, and had an easier time clearing the zone as a result. All of this probably made life easier for Talbot and the defence at large.
The improved defensive play carried over to Ottawa’s first penalty kill (as Travis Hamonic took a holding penalty on the backcheck). In general it felt like this PK saw the puck better and anticipated the play, allowing them to disrupt Vegas’ rhythm. Regrettably, the pace didn’t carry over to Ottawa’s second penalty kill as Artem Zub took an ill-advised penalty in the offensive zone, and the Knights’ powerplay dissected a weary Senators defence. In a reversal of the recent script, however, Ottawa responded immediately with some time in the Knights’ end, and Claude Giroux drew a penalty on which the Sens capitalized for Jake Sanderson’s first NHL goal:
The middle frame had many of the traits of a Good Road Period, especially compared to some of the fire drills we’ve seen of late from the Sens. Sounder decisions with the puck in the defensive zone led to better transitional play and the odd look off the rush. Ottawa couldn’t crack Logan Thompson but they still had to feel better about how well they managed the puck. Ottawa eventually had a couple of defensive breakdowns and on one such sequence the officials quickly dismissed an ostensible Knights goal as Brett Howden pushed the puck in with his hand. Hamonic took a penalty on the play but Ottawa killed the penalty effectively (with a Parker Kelly shorthanded breakaway to boot).
The good times could not last forever, alas, as William Carrier made made Ottawa’s backcheckers look rather foolish to blemish an otherwise very strong period from Talbot. Despite trailing by one after two, the Sens have to have felt confident having handily owned the shot and chance battle through forty minutes against one of the deepest and most talented teams in the league. Whether merited on not, penalty issues continued to plague Ottawa that time squandered killing penalties didn’t aid their cause at getting a puck past the Knights’ suddenly impervious goaltending.
Despite more strong play from Talbot and a continued valiant stand by Ottawa against one of the league’s better defensive teams, the Sens succumbed to the inevitable as William Karlsson scored an absolutely filthy goal to extend the Knights’ lead to two and all but ice this contest. Down by a pair, the Sens had to stray from the tight defensive game they had thus established in an attempt to generate some more chances but to no avail as every goaltender Ottawa has faced this month has morphed into Dominik Hasek. Dj Smith waited until the final two minutes to pull his netminder and the Knights almost immediately converted to drag out our collective misery.
- Cam Talbot had one of his best games as a Senator, making 31 saves. I can’t really fault him for the ones that went in.
- If not for the whole, ya know, unmitigated disaster of a regular season to date, the Sens could probably take a lot of solace in how well they controlled the play at five-on-five against an elite opponent (see charts below).
- Although not the primary culprit here, losing out on the penalty differential continues to haunt Ottawa (Sanderson spend four and a half minutes killing penalties!).
- Every single Senator finished above 50% in five-on-five corsi-for and only Lassi Thomson finished below in expected goals-for (at a very respectable 47.6). Sanderson finished the game with an absurd 85.6 xGF% at five-on-five against one of the best teams in the league as a rookie and I have no words for that.
- Thank goodness the team with the better nerd stats always wins—[touches earpiece, nods resignedly]./