The last time the Ottawa Senators faced off against the Pittsburgh Penguins, it was just Ottawa’s 4th win of the season (to bump them up to 4-9-1) and their first dominant one as they won 6-3. It was an incredibly fun night at the Canadian Tire Centre, which was right before many positive COVID cases on the team. This time around, the Senators were playing in Pittsburgh looking to bounce back from an unfortunate 3-1 loss to Buffalo.
The first period was not exactly what you’d expect from this version of the Senators. They ended up being down 3-1 after 20 minutes but somehow outshot Pittsburgh 22-12 and deserved a better fate. Dominik Simon got the scoring started for the Penguins on a shot that looked like a nothing play. He came into the zone on a two-on-two and used Nick Holden as a perfect screen for Anton Forsberg. It was one Forsberg should’ve had, but it was 1-0 regardless.
About 6 minutes later, Drake Batherson continued his hot streak by getting the game tied up. It was quite the individual effort:
Not long after the celebration though, Evgeni Malkin was able to give the Penguins the lead again. He got the rebound from a Michael Matheson point shot, and he was wide open in front, giving him an easy goal for the lead. After that second goal, Forsberg’s night didn’t last much longer. He allowed the 3rd goal of the game (another weak one) after deflecting the puck in his own night:
Goalies everywhere are screaming at Fordsberg's form here. HOWEVER, the goal doesn't count because the entry play was offside. pic.twitter.com/WHMjhjiqz7— Lalime's Martian (@LalimesMartian) January 21, 2022
Luckily, the zone entry earlier on was offside, keeping the game at 2-1. However, DJ Smith had seen enough, as Forsberg had still essentially let in three goals. That brought Filip Gustavsson in, although he didn’t fare much better, with Michael Matheson scoring almost immediately on a play that Gustavsson should have cleared or covered up. Despite the 3-1 score, Ottawa still out-chanced and out-played Pittsburgh early on but were incredibly unlucky to begin the game.
The middle frame was even more frustrating.
Not only did the Senators get blanked in the 2nd, they let their deficit run to 5-1. Ottawa had some more chances early on and didn’t look completely out of it. A 3-1 deficit didn’t seem insurmountable, but you could tell that the Penguins were gaining momentum and beginning to get more chances. Sidney Crosby would be the first to score in the period on an incredible play that only a team like the Penguins can make. With Artem Zub in the box, Bryan Rust made a phenomenal saucer pass to a streaking Crosby, who then faked inside and went outside on Gustavsson before roofing the puck backhand.
And just for good measure, Matheson would add his second of the game on a snipe from far out that looked like it was put in without any effort. It was a fantastic shot but also one that Gustavsson looked very lost on. So after two periods, the game seemed finished.
Then a funny thing happened.
Tim Stützle scored a rebound goal just 1:45 into the final period, and that must have sparked the Senators into thinking they were back in the game. Because less than two minutes after that, Josh Norris scored on a strange play in the crease:
And with 16:27 left in the game, Ottawa was within striking distance down 5-3.
Jacob Bernard-Docker would take an interference penalty a few minutes later, giving Pittsburgh a golden opportunity to give themselves a nice cushion again. However, Alex Formenton once again used his speed to his advantage. He was able to get past everyone and come in on Tristan Jarry but was hauled down just before getting a shot off. He was rewarded a penalty shot, and he had a chance to make it a 1-goal game.
With boos reigning down, he wasn’t able to convert on the low shot, and it was still 5-3. But the Senators weren’t going to give up quietly. Formenton got into a scrum with Kris Letang and both of them were sent off for roughing, which showed just how intense he can be. With the play being 4-on-4, there was plenty of room in the offensive zone.
Erik Brännström then showed why he has always been considered a special prospect. His incredible efforts led to another Norris goal and all of a sudden it was somehow 5-4. I guess you could say the Sens were In Session:
ERIK BRÄNNSTRÖM ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! pic.twitter.com/p046uFpFJD— Everyday Sens (@EverydaySens) January 21, 2022
At that point, the game continued to be chaos. Ottawa already had a ton of chances earlier in the game, but now they were even more magnified as they were just down by one late. Every line was pressing, with their top players like Norris, Batherson, Tkachuk, Stützle, Chabot, and Brännström looking electric.
They never stopped peppering Tristan Jarry with shots, and Norris was inches away from getting a natural hat-trick to tie it up. Gustavsson was pulled with about a minute and a half to go, but Ottawa couldn’t deliver a tying goal, and Jake Guentzel sealed the deal with an empty-netter to make it 6-4. It was a valiant effort with some encouraging signs, but Pittsburgh walked away with the two points.
- Brännström continues to be a silver lining for this team. Thomas Chabot is the only other defenseman who can break the puck out like he can, and his offensive ability is showing itself a lot lately. His assist is a perfect example, and this sequence below is as well:/
Erik Brännström is on another level right now. pic.twitter.com/q7PZKXpyHN— Everyday Sens (@EverydaySens) January 21, 2022
Not only that, it seems like DJ Smith is finally beginning to trust him. He played 23:38 tonight, which is easily a season-high and the most he’s ever played with Chabot also in the lineup. He was even out on the ice to finish the game, and I hope that continues.
- Once again, the goalies need to be better. Both Forsberg and Gustavsson gave the team no chance to win, as they combined to stop 28 of 33 shots (.848 SV%).
- As I mentioned, Formenton was a menace in the third period, and he almost single-handedly got them a goal. He now has 11 points in his past 12 games and is on pace for 41 points in a full season.
- Nick Holden did not look like he could keep up, as he was getting turned inside out by the Penguins best players.
- You have to respect the Senators resiliency. They’ve shown a lot of that recently, most notably the 3-1 comeback against the Oilers last week. Despite being down 5-1, they never gave up and they clearly have the talent at the top of their lineup to get back into games. I think they’re building a good mentality.
- Norris had two goals tonight, giving him 18 in 32 games this season. That’s an incredible pace of 46 goals in a full season.
- Austin Watson and Brady Tkachuk got into fights tonight, which the Senators certainly do not shy away from./