In a game with story-lines abound, the Senators fell short once again.
Despite the return of Jean-Gabriel Pageau from an achilles injury that sidelined him a little over four months, a few early goals and a miserable third period proved to be Ottawa’s undoing, as they fell 5-4 to the Carolina Hurricanes.
Marcus Hogberg’s night was ended after surrendering three goals on 16 shots, and Anders Nilsson was solid in relief. The Senators also got great performances from Ryan Dzingel and Bobby Ryan, while rookie Rudolfs Balcers scored his first NHL goal, but their only real stretch of quality hockey came in the second.
The game began with a dead silent crowd at the CTC, even as the returning Pageau took his first shift of the season. Either that, or the building was just empty.
Tim Peele, or as Jamie McLennan incessantly referred to him on the TSN broadcast, “Referee Timmy Peele”, called Zack Smith for a trip 41 seconds into the game. On the ensuing powerplay, Teuvo Teravainen found Justin Faulk (not to be confused with Justin Falk), who uncorked a bullet of a one-timer that found its way past Marcus Hogberg just 1:12mins into the contest.
It was just Carolina’s third powerplay goal on their last 32 tries. The call was questionable at best, but 1-0 Canes.
Ottawa was awarded a powerplay chance of their own just a minute and 17 seconds later, when Brady Tkachuk made a great feed to Colin White in front of the net, and he was slashed by Victor Rask. Late in the man-advantage, however, the tide turned once again.
Mark Stone made an uncharacteristically awful pass in the Hurricanes’ end, that was picked off by Brock McGinn. McGinn split the Ottawa defenders, and beat Hogberg with a bit of a soft short-handed goal.
The game is not yet four and a half minutes old.
All in all, the rest of the frame was fairly uneventful. Bobby Ryan had a couple really good chances, but Petr Mrazek looked solid. The first period came to an end with the shots 11-10 in favour of Carolina.
Ottawa came out of the gate flying to start the second period. They looked like a different team, playing with speed and pushing the pace, keeping the pressure on the Hurricanes.
It paid off almost immediately.
Ryan Dzingel was robbed in the high slot, but Christian Wolanin absorbed a punishing check to keep the play alive. Bobby Ryan was able to collect his pass, and find Matt Duchene who had all the time in the world to get the Senators on the board.
Wolanin was slow to get up after that hit, but it was a great display of heart to sacrifice his body and it paid off with a goal. I really like this kid.
However, just when it seemed like things were starting to go Ottawa’s way, the Hurricanes got back on the board. Victor Rask made a cross-ice pass to Jacob Slavin, whose clapper found its way past Hogberg.
Today really wasn’t Hogberg’s day, and the third goal was enough for Guy Boucher to replace him with Anders Nilsson.
Momentum would swing again a little over four minutes later, when Andrei Svechnikov was called for holding. Ottawa went on their third powerplay of the contest, and on a play that Ryan Dzingel started and finished himself, they cut the lead back to one.
Dzingel held the line, passed off to Chris Tierney, took the return feed in front of the goal, and slipped a deft little backhand shot past Mrazek to make it 3-2.
#18 was all over the ice this afternoon, really one of his better efforts of the season.
But you guessed it, Carolina came right back.
Cody Ceci went down low in the offensive zone to try to make a play. Ryan was back covering for him, but he got caught on a bad pinch, and left Max Lajoie all alone to defend an odd-man rush. Sebastian Aho threw the puck back up high to Dougie Hamilton, and with Ceci storming back and inadvertently screening Nilsson, Dougie put a snapshot off the pipe and in the goal.
Just like that, it’s a two-goal lead again.
The second period was Ottawa’s best, despite the deficit. They dominated the shots on goal total, and controlled possession of the biscuit.
Finally, in the dying minutes of the period, they broke through.
In his second game with the big club, Rudolfs Balcers took a great pass from Tierney, and drove to the net with the confidence of a seasoned veteran. Balcers slipped the puck past Mrazek for his first NHL goal, and cut the lead back to one with 47.4 seconds to go in the frame.
Congratulations, Young Dolf. Looking forward to watching many more of those.
The magic didn’t stop there.
J.G. Pageau, after a four-month layoff due to a torn achilles, grabbed a puck chipped ahead by Mark Stone, and fired his first of the season past Mrazek.
Just eight seconds after the Balcers marker, tying a franchise record for consecutive goals, we’re all square at 4-4.
The Senators went into the locker room all tied, and appearing to be on the cusp of another comeback win.
Unfortunately, they were nowhere to be found in the third.
The Hurricanes came rumbling out of the gate, a lightning-quick counterattack that completely reversed the momentum Ottawa had gained.
They finally struck 7:34mins into the third, with Bobby Ryan in the box for tripping.
Carolina captain, and ageless wonder, Justin Williams was parked in front of Anders Nilsson, and a Teravainen shot deflected off his leg and in as if it were a Game 7.
Williams would have a golden opportunity to restore his team’s two-goal lead not long after, but Nilsson made a sensational glove save on the breakaway opportunity.
A woeful powerplay late in the period, in which the Senators struggled to even gain the zone, and a last-minute 6on5 attack were not enough to complete the comeback. Ottawa was only able to muster two (2!) shots in the third period, and fell to the Hurricanes by a final score of 5-4.
This was a game that could, and probably should, have gone a lot differently. The Sens out outshot the Canes 31-29, and were it not for a few weak goals early in the contest, they could have had far more opportunities to build and sustain momentum.
All that said, Ottawa’s special teams were far from anything to write home about. The Dzingel powerplay goal is not nearly enough to excuse the short-handed goal, and the abysmal effort in the third period. Ottawa needed that powerplay, the game was on the line, and they could scarcely gain the blue line. This team needs Thomas Chabot back, and very badly.
That makes eight losses in a row for the Sens, for the first time since 1997.
- Ryan Dzingel was all over the ice today. He was creating chances left and right, and likely did a lot to boost his trade value.
- Aside from the one critical defensive error, and the penalty that cost Ottawa the winning goal, Bobby Ryan had one of his better games of the year. He moved the puck very well, and looked confident in the offensive zone. He appeared to come up holding his hand (*gasp*) on one play in the third period, so hopefully he’s alright.
- Christian Wolanin is proving every game that he’s an NHLer. He was really solid today.
- Welcome back J.G. Pageau! #44 didn’t miss a beat in his return from injury, and his presence looks to be a sight for sore eyes going forward.
- Rudolfs Balcers needs more ice-time. He has a nose for the net, and proved it with a great play to score his first NHL goal./