The Ottawa Senators continued their five-game homestand tonight against the Washington Capitals, looking to win their second straight game. The Caps were without the injured Tom Wilson, Nicklas Backstrom, and Connor Brown, as well as the suspended Evgeny Kusnetsov, so this was a golden opportunity for Ottawa to take advantage of a depleted roster, much like several opponents did to them last season.
Prior to the puck drop, the team honored former owner Eugene Melnyk, who passed away in March, with a video tribute and a banner raised to the stands. A classy tribute to the man who, for all of his faults, bought the franchise back in 2003 when it was on the verge of bankruptcy, and gave them a chance to provide us with a team we could be proud of until the end of the 2016-17 season.
After a fairly uneventful (save for a Josh Norris shot off the post) first half of the first period, things quickly unraveled, starting with Jake Sanderson being called for tapping T.J. Oshie on the skates. Not even halfway into the penalty kill, Travis Hamonic cleared the puck directly out of play, sending Ottawa off to an extended 5-on-3 kill. They actually did pretty well, but with 5 seconds left Oshie found a gap in the team’s coverage and beat Forsberg in tight to open the scoring.
The #Caps get on the board first here as TJ Oshie buries one on the 5-on-3— Pesky Sickos (@PeskySickos) October 20, 2022
The #Sens have given up the first goal in a game for the first time this season.
1-0 Washington.#GoSensGo pic.twitter.com/y3VIKYaDzZ
Anthony Mantha doubled the Caps’ lead shortly after on the remainder of the power-play. Say what you will about Hamonic, but there’s only one word that can describe a team giving up two goals off of a single mistake. Unlucky. Without that first call, it’s likely 0-0 after one period.
This Anthony Mantha goal had some mustard behind it. 💨 pic.twitter.com/ZsMdsGQcUK— NHL (@NHL) October 20, 2022
The Senators seemed to check out for an early intermission after those two goals, despite being the better team prior to the penalty on Sanderson. I’m pretty sure that Washington had more scoring chances than Ottawa had completed passes in the offensive zone during that stretch. If you think watching it sucks, imagine writing about it.
In a nutshell, they played well for 10 minutes, fell victim to suspect officiating, and their fourth line got hemmed in their own zone once.
Following the most boring period professional hockey has ever seen, Ottawa and Washington treated us to the most chaotic period professional hockey has ever seen.
A late hit on Sanderson by Nic Dowd, which shook up and bloodied the former, seemed to mark a shift in momentum for the Sens. The hit wasn’t penalized, with Hamonic and Dowd’s coincidental roughing minors creating a 4-on-4.
Oshie then tripped up Alex DeBrincat to create an Ottawa 4-on-3, and was visibly shocked at the development. I also am surprised at these officials making a decent call. And the Sens scored! Granted, the power-play made those Chris Tierney-led units from years past look downright dangerous in comparison, but a clutch hold at the line by DeBrincat opened up the Caps’ penalty killers and Drake Batherson finished off a pretty passing play to cut Washington’s lead in half.
But wait, there’s more!
Another Oshie penalty, this time a slash on Brady Tkachuk, led to a much better-looking power-play by Ottawa, and finding a rebound in tight and cashing in to tie the game was Batherson once again.
BUT WAIT, THER-oh wait, it was tipped in by a high stick. Never mind. Still a 2-2 game.
And things only proceeded to get even more hectic from there. Tkachuk and Conor Sheary traded minor penalties. The Caps found themselves with a 5-on-2 rush. The Sens found themselves with a 3-on-1. Parker Kelly launched John Carlson out of a t-shirt cannon. And Artem Zub created a mystical phenomenon by first breaking up an odd-man rush, and then burying his man in the corner. It was Zub chants on top of Zub chants. Worth the price of tickets by itself.
Parker Kelly levels John Carlson. Should be an instigator to McMichael. pic.twitter.com/i4PcUf17LJ— Everyday Sens (@EverydaySens) October 21, 2022
The Senators were the significantly better team in the second period, and the trend continued through the final 20 minutes as well. The third line of Shane Pinto, Tyler Motte, and Mathieu Joseph had been the team’s Achilles’ heel in the past few games, but they were much better at both ends of the ice tonight. And the culmination of their hard work in pursuing the puck was yet another goal for the poster boy of the Trent Mann Club, Shane Pinto.
That’s 3 goals in 4 games for the second-round pick from the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. Also, is it just me, or did the team begin dominating even more after the go-ahead goal? It felt like every second breakout attempt the Caps had preceded a turnover and high-danger chance for Ottawa. They were relentless on the forecheck, poised in their own end, and it all led to them reaching 44 shots by the end of the game, compared to Washington’s 24. The one chance the visitors had to tie the game came off the stick of Marcus Johansson, and Anton Forsberg came up big in response:
Washington pulled Kuemper with 1:15 to go in regulation, but it was all in vain as empty-net markers from Tyler Motte and Alex DeBrincat, firsts of the season for both, created a score more indicative of the dominance the Senators showed tonight, a 5-2 victory.
- Tyler Motte chipped in with an insurance goal and had a nice assist on the game-winner, but what impressed me more were the several individual chances he had throughout the game. He finished second on the team with 6 shots on goal, and according to NaturalStatTrick, 4 of them were high-danger scoring chances. Major Bowness points for the pro scouting department with that signing.
- Motte didn’t stand out in terms of his shot metrics, but that’s because nearly every player on the team had positive results. Artem Zub, who shut down the Caps’ offense numerous times throughout the evening, led the team with an apocalyptic 95% 5v5 expected goals share. I don’t care if it’s only been three seasons, SEND HIS JERSEY TO THE RAFTERS!!!
- Alex DeBrincat still hasn’t scored on an NHL goaltender this season, but that empty-netter could be what gets him going. He’s generated tons of chances so far, adding five more shots in tonight’s contest, and it’s only a matter of time before he and Josh Norris find the back of the net. What’s important is that neither of them needs to be Ottawa’s top scorer, since there are a number of players who can contribute in a big way offensively. All players run hot and cold, and if the team keeps playing like this, pucks are going to find the back of the net, regardless of who last touched it. It’s entirely possible we see both DeBrincat and Norris fall short of 20 goals, while Brady and Claude Giroux pot 40 each. Hockey’s a weird sport./
Stats (from NaturalStatTrick):
- They’re looking to go 3-for-3 at home on Saturday, October 22nd against the Arizona Coyotes, with a 4:00 PM EST start time. Should be an easy win. *proceeds to dread for the next 48 hours*/