The Nashville Predators came to town with a sterling 10-0-0 record against Eastern Conference teams. They left with a slightly tainted 10-0-1 record, after the Senators nearly gave away a game in which they were up 3-0, but managed to win just 20 seconds into overtime. It was also country night, which led me to include a bunch of heavily forced references to country songs in this recap.
The first period was the Senators’, led by the guys who don’t look a day over fast cars and freedom. First, Thomas Chabot drew a penalty just a minute into the game. On that powerplay, Maxime Lajoie scored on a shot that hit Matt Irwin’s skate and squeaked past Pekka Rinne. It was Lajoie’s first point in six games, and one of the assists was Drake Batherson’s, which was his first point in nine games. Then Brady Tkachuk found out he had friends in low places, first with Colin White making a nice pass to Mark Stone while sitting on the ice, and then Stone getting down low behind the goal line and making a pass behind Rinne through the crease to Tkachuk for the tap-in.
Batherson got a chance to further extend the lead on a breakaway, but his nice forehand-backhand deke didn’t quite fool Rinne. Then Tkachuk looked he’d score on a late powerplay, but the refs (correctly) ruled he’d put it in with a high stick. But just as it looked like the period might end 2-0, Stone hit Ryan Dzingel with a beautiful pass up the middle, Dzingel decided to skate just like them horses and split the D, and then beat Rinne with a quick shot with 11.6 seconds left. That was Stone’s second beautiful primary assist of the period; every little thing that he does, I’m amazed by... him. The rhyme doesn’t work in the third person. Anyway, the shots in the first were 11-9 for Ottawa, but the all-important goals stat showed 3-0 for the Sens.
It turned out the 3-on-11 was too much for Rinne, because he got a chance to eat his chicken fried on the bench, with Juuse Saros starting the second in net. Ottawa didn’t let up right away though, getting the first few great chances of the period, with Smith on a partial breakaway, and White just barely unable to put it past the defenceman behind Saros. Craig Anderson for his part had been in the zone, snagging pucks out of the air with ease, looking like he might just cruise to a shutout. But with the Predators getting another powerplay, this time they made the Sens’ poor PK pay. Andy made the initial save, but the rebound went to Roman Josi who potted it over a sprawling Ben Harpur, who was really nowhere near the puck and maybe a little in Anderson’s way.
It could’ve been a second goal if it were not for Justin Falk deciding to save a horse goal, blocking a slapshot with his back while Anderson scrambled to get back into position. The end to the second was quite bizarre. First, Christan Jaros covered a puck under his chest in the crease while clearly keeping his hands away from it to not give a penalty shot. The puck actually squeaked through him before the whistle went, but it didn’t matter because he still got his whistle and prevented a goal. Then, Bobby Ryan and Kyle Turris decided to show the fightin’ side of them, dropping the gloves. I never heard of any animosity between the two in Ottawa, but the fight didn’t seem like it was for fun, with some fightin’ words continuing as the two were sent to the box. Then Tkachuk go his second (correctly) disallowed goal of the game, making a beautiful tip on a Stone backhand shot, but unfortunately it didn’t count, completing Tkachuk’s Erik Condra hat-trick. Then with all the talk of the Rinne/Saros tandem, Anderson decided he wanted to talk about him, making a few acrobatic saves on weird bounces, ending up in the snow angel position, and then again later squeezing the puck between his feet then falling on it eight bodies crashed the net. The latter, with a lot of poking at the not-loose puck by Miikka Salomaki, led to a huge scrum behind the net. Zack Smith suggested that to prevent these scrums, the refs could blow the whistle before he cheats by jabbing the goalie repeatedly in the legs. The Ryan-Turris fight seemed to lead to some nastiness, with the two sides continuing to shove back and forth up to the period-ending whistle. While the first was even, the second showed that life goes on, and the Sens can’t maintain momentum for two periods. Shots ended up being 15-7 for the Preds that period.
The third opened poorly for the Sens, with Lajoie caught being a desperate man. Just nine seconds into the period, he was caught flat-footed and stuck out his foot to trip Calle Jarnkrok, sending the Preds to the powerplay. On that powerplay, the Preds were able to tie it up on a Craig Smith goal. I know I’m possibly the biggest harper on Harpur, but this goal was a microcosm of why I get so frustrated with him. He always seem to leave you thinking he was close to doing something right, and then he messes up anyway. He made a great read on the dump in, intercepting the puck behind the net. Then his clearing attempt was soft and held in at the line. And then he didn’t really cover anything useful on the following play, instead just screening Anderson so he had no chance on the Smith shot.
Not surprisingly, Nashville was next to strike. Josi’s shot/pass in front of the net hit Dzingel’s stick, possibly Harpur’s hip, the post, and then bounced into the net. It was just an awkward, awkward goal. It looked like Ryan Ellis may have been offside on the zone entry, but it was hard to tell from the video, and with the risk of another penalty to kill if the challenge failed, Guy Boucher didn’t want to take the risk. Ottawa got a decent chance to take the lead with their second too-many-men-based powerplay of the net, but failed to generate much of anything. And then with under four minutes to go, Falk took his second penalty of the game (and second on what looked like an embellished reaction), giving Nashville’s 2/4 powerplay a great chance to take the lead. But Ottawa would kill the penalty, and other than a hot shot by Chabot with 30 seconds left, the period ended without event. Overtime was online.
This was no three-minute, positive, not too country, up-tempo overtime. No sir, it lasted about 20 seconds. After a bobble at the Preds’ blue line, Dzingel pounced on the loose puck. He passed it to Chabot, who thought about passing to Chris Tierney before beating Saros short side, off the post and in. It was a great goal from a guy who’d otherwise been pretty quiet on the night. It left the Preds saying you could drag them back to Nashville, while the Sens were celebrating like it was five o’clock somewhere.
- The defencemen looked active tonight. All of Cody Ceci, Chabot, and Jaros took turns jumping into the rush and getting good looks in odd-man rushes. It was nice to see them looking to use their speed to get good chances in tight. It worked very well in overtime for Chabot.
- Zack Smith seemed to playing the right game for him — engaged physically, but still maintaining control. His shove on Ryan Hartman near the end of the late third period penalty kill was a thing of beauty.
- Craig Anderson was stellar, making several highlight-reel saves. It’s hard to fault him on any of the goals he allowed, especially since two were on the powerplay and the other was off two of his teammates./
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