Ottawa Senators Struggle in 4-3 Loss to Tampa Bay Lightning

They caught Vasilevskiy on an off-night, and still couldn’t get it done.

After allowing a ridiculous 57 shots against Florida on Saturday, the Ottawa Senators took part in the second half of their trip in the state against the Tampa Bay Lightning, looking to avoid their third straight loss and win their first road game of the season. Tonight’s affair was something else, let me tell you.

Austin Watson got the ball rolling with an early fight against Pat Maroon. Dropping the gloves in your own zone during an opposing possession? Give him the Selke.

Despite forcing a few turnovers early on, the Bolts got into shooting lanes, while Anton Forsberg was forced into several nice saves as Tampa went up early in shots 4-0. Foreshadowing: the Sens would never lead on the shot clock.

However, as we often say: it’s about quality, not quantity. Ok, well it’s DEFINITELY about quantity when it comes to goals, and the only one of the period came off of the best chance for either team. Parker Kelly forced a turnover by Pierre-Edouard Bellmare, and Dylan Gambrell in his first game of the year patiently deked out Andrej Vasilevskiy and tucked the puck five-hole to open the scoring.

Tim Stützle found himself in the box for charging shortly after, but fortunately, Ottawa defends better the fewer skaters they have on the ice. That might also be a quality-over-quantity thing, who knows? The lone scoring chance for the Bolts was sent wide by Ross Colton.

Just as it seemed the Sens were turning the tide, Parker Kelly cross-checked Cal Foote in the Tampa zone after an initial battle. Though you could quibble with whether Foote needed to go down in a heap, it was not necessary by any means as the puck had crossed into another timezone. Ottawa survived the first period with a 1-0 lead, though.

Overall, the Senators needed a strong performance from Forsberg to stay ahead and struggled mightily to break the puck into the Bolts’ end, but they did force multiple turnovers in the short amount of time they had, and oddly enough, generated three high-danger opportunities at 5-on-5, the same number as Tampa.

The Sens killed the remainder of the Kelly minor, but right after that, Sanderson was called for seemingly high-sticking the air in front of Colton. Colton certainly kicked his head back as if he’d been struck, but it’s awfully hard to see when, exactly, the contact took place on replay.

Even though Ottawa killed off most of the disadvantage effectively, even generating a shorthanded three-man rush, a Mikhail Sergachev point shot tied the game at one with 25 seconds to go on the man advantage.

What cam next was confounding, but of a piece with this whole game. First, Dylan Gambrell’s strong night went south quickly after he caught Cernak up high. It’s deemed a match penalty and a five-minute major. Maybe a bit harsh, but hard to argue. The Senators' PK unit, in tandem with Forsberg, put in a seriously gutsy effort to eat away at the man advantage, preventing quality chances.

For a moment, tt’s almost as if there are five guys defending for a second there — and then you realize that’s exactly the case. It’s a too-many-men penalty on Ottawa?!?! Yes, it’s time for a 1:34 5-on-3 power-play for Tampa. However, in one of the best special teams efforts of the young season, Nick Holden, Tyler Motte, and co. continuously thwart any attempts to take the lead. Then, after some help from the iron, this happens.

God bless Mathieu Joseph. You just know he was looking for redemption after that underwhelming pickleball performance.

Joseph wasn’t done, either. After Travis Hamonic took a hooking penalty to negate an odd-man rush, he shut down his former team once again, by stifling Sergachev at the blue line and drawing a penalty right back. Look, it’s Ottawa’s top six on the ice! Where have you all been hiding? Anyway, they get a 2-on-0 in short order, and Tim Stützle and Drake Batherson are stifled by Vasilevskiy. You may look at how he’s allowed two goals on eight shots through 40 minutes and laugh, but in his defense, they were both really, really good chances. Maybe even more dangerous than anything Forsberg has seen through 40 minutes if I’m honest.

The third period opens up with — you guessed it! A Senators’ penalty! But you guys aren’t amateurs at this point, right? You know nothing’s getting to Anton Forsberg. I’m starting to think these are some intentional mind games by D.J. Smith. He’s shattering the confidence of the opposing team’s best offensive players. Let’s see if the eight Senators penalty, on Brady Tkachuk will work out differently. SURVEY SAYS? MATTY JO!!! I mean, NO!!!

You have to credit the entire PK unit tonight, but Joseph has stood out among the pack. Even on the back of another successful kill, he was just as relentless on the forecheck, and successfully drew his second penalty of the night, this time on Cal Foote.

OK, so this is the part where I have to blatantly acknowledge the tonal whiplash you’re about to experience because a performance like this can only be celebrated if you win. Otherwise, it becomes just another bad hockey game.

Ottawa’s power play doesn’t get the job done, and they’re punished for it as a few minutes later, Alex Killorn is able to find a gap in the defensive coverage to tie the game at two. The Senators did manage to reclaim the lead right after, and it’s a shame because I was ready to write something absolutely chaotic. But this gift from Andrei Vasilevskiy is meaningless as Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point completely bamboozle Chabot, and the latter beats Forsberg in alone to tie the game again.

And then, with 2:30 left in the game, Kucherov scored himself to give Tampa their first lead of the hockey game.

Nick Paul scored an empty-net goal, which was actually called back for offside, and Brady Tkachuk almost scored with a second left, but to no avail. Good try, though! Try to get more than one shot on goal next time, K?

Game Notes:

  • Let’s start with a positive — tonight was a masterclass from Mathieu Joseph. He was all over the ice on the penalty kill, turned back several attempted one entries by the Lightning power-play, and scored an absolutely beautiful breakaway goal on a 3-on-5 kill.
  • Anton Forsberg was fantastic for 40 minutes and was still one of Ottawa’s best players during the final 20. That says something considering his .882 save percentage tonight.
  • An embarrassing defensive performance against the Panthers is followed up by an embarrassing offensive performance against the Lightning. Of course, the amount of time the Senators spent on the PK limited the top six’s ice time but they really didn’t do much at all with what they had to work with. The next few weeks feature games against teams lacking in the talent department compared to the Cup contenders, such as Vancouver, Philadephia, and the Islanders, so it’ll serve as a golden opportunity for Ottawa to either get into a groove or get exposed as nothing more than bells and whistles. A lot of the good feelings of the first few weeks have seemingly been washed away with the injuries to Josh Norris, Artem Zub, and the subsequent dispiriting performances. Smith described tonight’s game as “maybe as disappointing a game since I’ve been here”. Yikes!/


Up Next:

  • Mercifully, the Sens return home to take on the Vegas Golden Knights on Thursday, November 3rd, for a 7:00 PM puck drop. Let’s see if they can hit 20 shots this time./

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