Tonight the Senators were looking for their fourth win in five games, but they were up against a tough and somewhat underrated Winnipeg Jets team. While they lack a superstar calibre player, they are a very "western conference" type team that can beat you down because of their size. Ottawa was in tough for sure.
The thought tonight was that the Jets would be tired because they had played the night before. That showed early on, and the Senators were the much better team in the first period of this game. However, it wasn't that simple, and the Jets didn't coast the entire game and take the loss.
After some good opportunities by the Senators early in the period and a good penalty kill, Cody Ceci unexpectedly opened the scoring. It seemed like nobody even knew it went in, and even Gord Miller had bewilderment in his voice when he called the goal. Jean-Gabriel Pageau won the draw cleanly in the offensive zone, and Ceci shot a knuckle-puck that Michael Hutchinson somehow did not get a good read on. Just like that, it was 1-0 Ottawa.
Not even a minute later, Ottawa had a chance to make it 2-0 thanks to a four minute high sticking penalty on Mark Stuart after he hit Chris Neil in the face. Predictably, the power play couldn't get any traction after the first 30 seconds, and it was another wasted opportunity. After the first, it was 1-0 Senators and the shot attempts were 20-14 Ottawa at even strength.
The second period was when Winnipeg really started to take it to Ottawa. There wasn't too much action in the first half of the second period, and it seemed like Ottawa could have an easy win if they potted another goal or two soon enough. Things were looking even better when Bobby Ryan scored on a magnificent passing display by Erik Karlsson and Mika Zibanejad.
Karlsson came up in the rush and laid it off to Zibanejad, who was left with Ryan on a two on one. Zibanejad made a perfectly calm pass over to the left side and Bobby made no mistake. Well, it was an empty net, so of course he was going to score (h/t Murray Pam).
Everything was all rosey at that point, but if you are a Senators fan, most of the time you are waiting for the other shoe to drop. Just minutes after the Ryan goal, the Jets began their reign of terror for the rest of the game. It started with an Andrew Ladd goal with 2:49 to go in the second period. With pressure down low in the Senators zone, Ladd was left wide open at the far side of the net.
The pairing of Jared Cowen and Mark Borowiecki were unaware he was there, and when Blake Wheeler won the puck battle in the corner, he passed it to the other side of the net where Ladd was able to catch Craig Anderson off guard. There was no way Anderson could have gotten there in time, and it was simply not good defending from everyone involved on the ice.
Ottawa had a chance to restore the two goal lead late in the period thanks to a Tyler Myers high-sticking penalty, but that was mitigated just 24 seconds later by a questionable holding the stick call on Kyle Turris (side note: who calls that nowadays?). Late in the second period at one point, Ottawa had a shot attempt differential of +5 at even strength. After that point, Winnipeg out-attempted Ottawa by 24 until the end of overtime. So somehow the Senators managed to have a +5 differential almost 2/3rd's of the way through, and ended up with a -19 differential.
It was no surprise then to see Dustin Byfuglien tie up the game just 26 seconds into the third period. Erik Karlsson turned the puck over at the opposing blue line, and once Byfuglien took the puck over the Senators blue line you could tell it was going in. He had lots of time while on a two on one with Nikolaj Ehlers, and Anderson once again didn't have much of a chance. Frustratingly, it was tied up.
The rest of the way, it was quite nerve-wracking. There were no penalties or goals until the end of the third period, but there were many close chances on both sides. There's no question that Anderson kept them in the game, and even with about 15 seconds left, Bryan Little had a point blank chance in the slot to win the game but he could not convert. The Jets certainly could have taken over the game and won in regulation, but somehow there was a deadlock after 60 minutes.
In overtime, it was absolutely thrilling. This was Ottawa's sixth (!) overtime game, and for the first time it was wildly entertaining. Karlsson had a chance to win it with a breakaway early on, but he couldn't quite settle the bouncing puck. Anderson had a few more big saves in the extra frame, and Bobby Ryan, Kyle Turris, and Mike Hoffman also had some chances. I thought for sure it would end in overtime, but somehow Anderson and Hutchinson were able to keep their teams alive.
In the shootout though, it was a different story. Although Ottawa has been a historically bad shootout team, they have been better this year. It showed tonight, as all three of Ryan, Turris, and Zibanejad were able to score on Hutchinson to give the Senators the win. Anderson allowed the first shot on Blake Wheeler, but he only had to stop the next one to allow Zibanejad a chance to win the game.
The Senators have gone to the shootout 5 times now somehow, and they are 3-2.
Sens Hero: Craig Anderson
As I mentioned before, Anderson stood on his head at times, and he certainly kept Ottawa in the game. We've heard this a lot recently, but it is true. He had to face 41 shots, and a lot of them were quality scoring chances. He was the game's first star, and it's hard to argue with that.
Honourable Mention: Bobby Ryan
He scored another goal tonight, and he has looked much better than the first few games of the season. I'm not sure he's 30-goal quality anymore, but any contributions he makes is welcomed. Although his line faded later in the game, I was very impressed early on by him with Mika Zibanejad and Shane Prince.
Sens Zero: Zack Smith
He had a team-low 7:04 in ice time, and was on for 4 shot attempts for and 7 against. He also took a penalty, and I'm not sure Dave Cameron is liking what he sees. I'd be curious to see if he wants to maybe try Curis Lazar as a fourth line centre so Smith can be scratched.
Sens Killer: Dustin Byfuglien
Byfuglien always plays well against the Senators, but maybe that's just because he is a good player. In 17 career games against Ottawa, he has 16 points (including 7 goals), which is obviously very good for a defenceman. He also had 7 shots tonight, and he's always going to make an impact every time Ottawa sees him.
ESPN Shot Chart: