There’s consensus from those who tuned into Monday afternoon’s affair between the Ottawa Senators and Minnesota Wild: the offence was still off for Thanksgiving.
The game was choppy, with 13 (!) penalties called in total — seven for Ottawa, six for Minnesota — that disrupted the flow of play at even-strength. When push came to shove in the third, it was the Wild who emerged victorious. A cheeky slash from Victor Rask took the stick out of Thomas Chabot’s hands, leaving the Sens star defender unable to close in on Rask in tight. When the ex-Canes forward found himself with the puck in front of Craig Anderson, he had the time needed to go upstairs, short-side on the netminder for the game’s first goal.
The Wild then did an excellent job locking the game down in the neutral zone, limiting the Sens to just nine shot attempts in the third period. While Chris Tierney tried to will his team back into the game by drawing a penalty on Luke Kunin late in the third, the Sens were unable to generate anything against the Wild, even with Craig Anderson pulled.
With the game back at even-strength, Thomas Chabot attempted to dump the puck in but ended up slapping it off the leg of Mikko Koivu. The Wild captain was able to recover in time and pop the puck up to Parise, who won a footrace with Brady Tkachuk to score an empty-net goal.
What did we learn?
1: The Sens have a penalty problem
Vladislav Namestnikov (trip), Erik Brännström x2 (interference, hook), Chris Tierney (slash), Thomas Chabot (hook), and Tyler Ennis (interference) took minor penalties for the Sens. Bobby Ryan was also called for a two-minute minor — a coincidental roughing penalty with Luke Kunin — but gets the benefit of the doubt here for stepping in to defend Dylan DeMelo and taking another player with him.
Through five games, the Sens have given up the sixth most PK time in the league, while having played one less game than all of the others worse than them. Using your feet is often a safe way to get out of taking the stick penalties the Sens have been taking, and they looked like they were skating in quicksand far too often tonight.
2: Lucky for the penalty takers, the PK continued to play well
While the Sens penalty kill was perfect again, the hard minutes they played during their very active defending seemed to sap the life out of the team in the third, and obviously isn’t a recipe for success. Jean-Gabriel Pageau played over six minutes of shorthanded minutes (SHTOI), while DeMelo, Hainsey, Zaitsev, and Borowiecki all received ~five minutes of SHTOI.
It’s great that the Sens continued their strong play on the PK, especially against a solid Wild squad with a lot of weapons up front and on the blueline with Matt Dumba and, leading scorer, Brad Hunt. Dumba noticeably hit the goalpost twice, and Mark Borowiecki took a couple of shot blocks off of Hunt slapshots, but the Sens did a good job of limiting shots and high-danger chances.
3: The Sens looked more dangerous shorthanded than on their powerplay
Outside of the team’s first opportunity at the start of the second, which produced five shots on goal, the Sens struggled to generate high quality chances on Alex Stalock. They looked especially weak on the entry, with the team failing to generate a single shot on goal over their next four opportunities, including a chance with 4:32 left in the third period.
Instead, the team almost scored twice on the penalty kill or soon thereafter, with a noticeable chance in the first period coming by way of Mark Borowiecki jumping up into the play. The bulky defenceman created a 3-on-2, and sent the puck on net for a rebound, but Namestnikov was robbed by Stalock:
Later in the game, Anthony Duclair took Brad Hunt wide, but couldn’t elevate the puck up and over Stalock.
4: Ottawa was lucky to getaway with no injuries
After losing Artem Anisimov with a lower-body injury on Saturday night, there were two scary collisions that nearly resulted in injuries for key Sens players.
Thomas Chabot got boarded on an awkward play from Marcus Foligno but was out for the next shift on the ensuing powerplay:
Craig Anderson took a skate from Jason Zucker, as the Wild forward took Chabot wide and was tripped up. Anderson was down for a while and had a divot in his mask, but stayed in the game:
5: Alex Stalock was the most entertaining part of the game
Whether he was being sly to save his defenceman, or coming out to play a puck just to show that he could, Alex Stalock did everything he could to help the Wild win their first game of the year. The ex-Sharks netminder played 22 games last year, but usually plays second fiddle to Devan Dubnyk’s heavy workload. With the former All-Star having a tough go of it to start the year, Stalock led the way, and it’ll be interesting to see if coach Bruce Boudreau continues to roll with him. Tip of the cap.
The Senators were out-attempted 40-34 at even-strength, mainly on the backs of a solid Wild push in the middle of the first, and at the start of the third.
While the Senators mainly attempted shots from the left faceoff circle and the left side of Stalock, the Wild were able to centre their shots on Craig Anderson, and won the xG battle 1.94 to 1.27 at 5-on-5.
A three-game road trip to Vegas, Arizona, and Dallas — starting on Thursday!