Coming off four straight losses, the Senators knew they had to open the game strong and they did, outshooting the Bolts 13-8 in the first frame and leaving the period with a 1-0 lead. The Senators got on the scoreboard after Kyle Turris handcuffed Ben Bishop with a shot that caught him in the shoulder, and the popped up in the air so that Daniel Alfredsson could bat it into the net. The refs reviewed the play, but Alfredsson clearly was confident that the puck wasn't hit with a high stick -- here is the full transcript of his conversation on the subject during the first intermission:
Ian Mendes: Were you ever worried it wouldn't count?
Alfredsson: No, I wasn't. <stares at camera>
The second period was a different story, unfortunately, and proved to be the turning point of the game. The Senators gave up two early goals, but it was the second one that will have Senators fans most frustrated. Kyle Turris took a hooking penalty, and Peter Regin was sent to take the ensuing faceoff. Regin won the faceoff cleanly, but was penalized for allegedly playing the puck with his hand on the draw, giving the Lightning a 5-on-3. The problem? Regin never touched the puck with his hand -- he won it cleanly with his stick. Unfortunately, his protests fell on deaf ears and the Lightning capitalized on their lengthy 5-on-3 opportunity. The Senators appeared to tie it up later in the frame, only to have the goal (correctly) called off because it had been batted in with a high stick.
The Senators controlled play early into the third period, with Guillaume Latendresse getting a fortunate bounce to his stick and tying up the game 2-2 just 21 seconds into the frame. Although the Senators held the Lightning to just 4 shots in the third, the Lightning came out with the win, as Steven Stamkos drew a penalty late in the game and then capitalized on the ensuing penalty to give the Bolts the 3-2 win.
The Senators were the better team tonight. They outshot the Lightning 33-24 and, as stated earlier, held the Lightning to 4 shots in the final frame. Still, being the better team doesn't always win games and it certainly doesn't make the fifth straight regulation loss during a playoff stretch drive any easier.
Sens Hero: Kyle Turris
Turris was the game's best player, assisting on both Senators goals, firing a game-high 6 shots on net, and creating more chances than any other player on the ice. His only struggle was in the faceoff circle, where he won just 35% of his draws.
Sens Zero: Matt Kassian
Usually, Sens Zeroes are named because they had a poor performance. I want to be very clear that this is not why Kassian is receiving a Zero. I did not notice if he had a bad game or not, because I actually did not notice him. Indeed, Kassian is a Zero because he actually had zero effect on the game. His time on ice was 2:42, and had that icetime all come on the same shift, you could have tweeted a photo of yourself Rihannaing and accidentally missed his entire game. You could have unloaded the top shelf of the dishwasher only to find out you missed Kassian's appearance. Spotting Kassian on the ice is like the NHL's version of Where's Waldo (especially if the Sens are in the heritage jersey). Most of Paul MacLean's roster decisions make sense, but dressing a guy to sit him on the bench makes no sense. If you're arguing that they need him there to intimidate, then where was he when Zibanejad was elbowed in the head in the second period? Did he deter it? Did he retaliate so as to have his teammate's back? No, he didn't. He was sitting on the bench after the third minute of the second period.
Sens Zero: Sergei Gonchar
Stamkos went down easy in the third period to give his team the powerplay that sealed the game, but Gonchar shouldn't have put his stick in Stamkos' midsection and forced the refs to make that call. Gonchar had already taken a dumb penalty earlier in the third period when he retaliated and slashed a player in the ankles, there was no need to put his team down a man again.
Sens Zero: Reffing
Giving the Lightning a 5-on-3 on a faceoff violation that did not occur is unacceptable. It was a two minute gift to the opposition that completely changed the game. The reffing was problematic in other ways as well -- in the first period and for the start of the third, the refs barely called anything, letting some blatant calls go. That's fine. But they also called everything in the second, which makes it tough for players to know where the line is drawn.
What's the best Less Than Jake Album?
Losing Streak! The Senators have lost five straight in regulation, and the last three have been against three teams at the bottom of the Eastern Conference. These are games the Senators should be winning, and they are not.
I guess there's a reason we call it the shot chart and not the slot chart, am I right? Yikes!