That was a halfway disappointing result to what was otherwise a very exciting game, as the New York Rangers beat the Ottawa Senators 2-1 after taking the game to a shootout. The teams traded chances, although Ottawa outshot the Rangers 36-28 and probably had more scoring chances, Henrik Lundqvist kept them in the game until it went to a shootout.
The shootout was filled with rather curious decisions from coach Cory Clouston, who did well with the top three shooters--Alex Kovalev was stopped by Lundqvist while both Daniel Alfredsson and Jason Spezza scored--but in extra shooters, he let Jarkko Ruutu, Mike Fisher, and Nick Foligno (all of whom were stopped) shoot before selecting Milan Michalek in a position he had to score in to stave off the loss. Seemed weird to me on all counts, but going into the shootout, Ruutu was 47.1 percent effective (8-for-17) while Fisher was running at 30.8 percent (4-for-13), both better than Michalek's 20.6 percent (2-for-8). Foligno remains questionable, though; he'd been 0-for-3 going into the game. But what's done is done, and John Tortorella's curious decision of having Hull native Pierre Parenteau shoot in his ninth NHL game proved adept; Parenteau scored the decisive goal in the shootout.
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As unpredictable has he's been so far this year, I was very impressed with Brian Lee tonight. He scored the Senators' only goal in regulation by following up very nicely on an offensive rush, and he had another similar chance, too. He finished with three shots on the night, plus another two that were directed at the net, plus a hit. Best of all, though, he was solid in his own end.
My star of the game, though, was Ruutu. He set up Lee for his goal on a great odd-man rush, and it was his fourth line (featuring Shean Donovan, I might add... ) that generated the offence for Ottawa. Considering the guy only played just over 12 minutes of ice time, it's amazing how often I seemed to hear his name. He finished with three hits, including one on Sean Avery, and just brought it.
As good as Lundqvist was on the night, Brian Elliott looked really good, too. His technical game was sound--and his glove was really hot--but I was particularly impressed with his strength playing the puck in the defensive end. It's not something Elliott was particularly strong with last season, but on two separate occasions he stopped the puck just before it entered the no-play zone, slowed it down, and set it up for the defencemen. Considering the struggles that Ottawa's had at times with defensive-end turnovers, that kind of set-up would be appreciated by the Sens' defencemen.
I'd be remiss if I left out the game of Jonathan Cheechoo. He trudged his way down the ice for a solid breakaway chance in the first period, set up Mike Fisher for a solid scoring opportunity in the second, and played pretty solid, all-around. If he could find some way to make the second powerplay unit a bit more lethal, well, that'd be just prime.
And geez... one of these days, Spezza is going to get twelve assist in one game, or something. I don't know how many times I heard some variation of "Spezza passes it out in front... " but, unfortunately, none of them ended in a goal horn. I said it in the game thread, but I wouldn't be surprised if Michalek was right at the top of the league in missed scoring chances.
Ottawa actually had more powerplays than penalties this game, which has got to surprise plenty of people. Unfortunately, in the end, all it amounted to was a short-handed goal against when Vinny Prospal converted a Marian Gaborik pass in the second. Ottawa did end up with some pretty good pressure on the PP, getting six shots on net during their five powerplay opportunities, but couldn't cash in. The overtime powerplay was particularly aggravating, when five straight Alfredsson shots were all blocked (two by Dan Girardi, two by Ryan Callahan, and one by Marc Staal). It's true that it's rare to score without shooting, but it's also rare to get a shot--even a Daniel Alfredsson shot--through a defender; Alfie's got to move the puck around on the powerplay a bit more, even if just to get himself an open shooting lane.
Powerplays aside, there wasn't much not to like about the Senators game. Despite one measly goal, the Senators had plenty of scoring chances, and Lundqvist looked good (as opposed to the Senators making him look good, which Ottawa is prone to do). The Rangers are a strong team, and the Senators were right in the game with them; the only difference came in the shootout, and sometimes that's just a matter of luck.
Did anyone listen to the game on the radio? I'm starting to wonder how much time Dave Schreiber and Gord Wilson are putting into the 'Keys of the Game'. One of the keys for the Senators tonight was to get a strong start, and then to sustain that play. So... basically, play well? Thanks. I bet another key would be to score more goals than the opposition.
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