The Ottawa Senators continue to find ways to win, and tonight's 4-2 win against the Buffalo Sabres was the tenth straight demonstration of that fact. For tonight's win, the Senators managed to hold their ground in a game where they had little business being in through the first 20 minutes, went up 2-0, allowed two opposition goals in 27 seconds to let the Sabres back into the game, but managed to keep their composure through the adversity and took the win in regulation. Not everyone was on board, but active coaching from Cory Clouston allowed the players who were into the game to get more ice time, while those who weren't performing got to ride the pine. Brian Elliott (with a little help from Chris Phillips) kept the Senators in the game long enough for Jason Spezza to score two, and then Daniel Alfredsson got a pair of his own to round out Ottawa's scoring.
Sens heroes: Brian Elliott, Chris Phillips, Jason Spezza, Erik Karlsson
The Senators had no business being in the game through the first 20 minutes, but Brian Elliott got them out of it in good shape. He stopped 36 of 38 shots on the night, including all 13 he faced in the first period, and made saves when the Senators needed them. There were some scary moments in the third period, when a couple of wicked shots got past Elliott, but he was there for the team. Of particular note was a sick glove save on Thomas Vanek mid-way through the third period, which was incredible.
Phillips was his solid self tonight, but he was also more than that. He also ran over Ryan Miller in an awesomely incidental contact play, which was fun to watch. More important, though, was his amazing save in the first period, when he stopped a puck that had rolled down Elliott's back from entering the Senators net. Were it not for his save, the Senators may have gotten down on themselves, but as it was they stayed in it long enough to take the lead thanks to...
Spezza was unbelievable. I don't know what point it was this season when he decided it would be worth it to try and start shooting, but it's working for him. He had two tonight--one a sick wrister over Miller's glove and the other a nice deke where he just out-waited the Sabres goalie and the rest of his team--plus an assist. Spezza was the team's leader, and he's playing with the intensity to be the team leader he's long been hyped as.
Finally, Karlsson's game took another step in the right direction tonight. There was his great fake-shot pass to Daniel Alfredsson for the game winner, but he also had a sweet spin-o-rama play at the offensive blue line late in the (at that point tie) game, the kind of play that almost makes you sick at the prospect of it going wrong. His game just keeps getting better.
Mark's take: Daniel Alfredsson deserves mention here, if only for his late game heroics. We're spoiled because we're so used to seeing him make plays, but he shined on the game winner. Watching him sneak completely unnoticed right up to the goal mouth and just bury it was a thing of beauty. His level of play at age 37 is a testament to his intelligence, and the ability to score big goals in big games is the kind of thing this team needs from its captain. There's a reason Alfredsson's leadership is unquestioned on this team, and he showed it again tonight.
Sens zeroes: Jonathan Cheechoo
Cheechoo's painful decline continued tonight. I don't want to suggest that he was all bad, because he showed some good effort on the backcheck at times, but there's a reason why he had the least ice time of any skater tonight. He just isn't cutting it. Although he had just 7:18 TOI, he was -2 on the night, on the ice for both Buffalo goals. I'd love it if he could raise his game, but I'm really starting to question why we're benching Shean Donovan instead of sending Cheechoo to the press box.
Sens who need improvement: Milan Michalek
Michalek always uses his speed effectively. But he needs to get his finishing touch back. End of story.
Sens killers: Jochen Hecht, Tim Connolly
Hecht was probably the Sabres' best forward tonight, finishing with a game-high seven shots on net. He only had the one assist, but managed to go +2 in a 4-2 loss, and had a couple of good defensive plays, too.
Connolly seems to be a regular Sens killer, and tonight was no different. He had a goal and an assist and had three shots. He was, once again, buzzing and making things difficult for the Sens' defenders.
Balancing act: Only three Senators had more than 20:00 TOI
Only Phillips, Filip Kuba, and Anton Volchenkov spent more than 20 minutes on the ice tonight, an impressive feat of bench management for Clouston. The use of forwards on the powerplay point certainly helps keep defence minutes down, but the fact that neither Alfredsson or Mike Fisher played more than 20 meant a pretty good balance for the team--part of the coaching staff's strategy throughout this winning streak. (It's worth noting that if not for his four PIM, Spezza would likely have topped 20 TOI.)
GameThread Roll Call:
Attendees: Ryan Classic, sens_24, PeterR, Mark Parisi, Crooklyn Banks, DaveYoung, Mike Hurley, Andrew J, hawks61, Manthong, Lady Gaga, DarrenM, Jeff Sullivan, Buz Killington, hockeygurl54, superjarvo, floFlow, Los Blancos Chicca, Paul Davis
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