Senators lose to Rangers in shootout, 5-4

All right, even though it's the preseason, a game still happened.  That means I have to recap it.  And since you're here, you have to read it.  There's no backing out now.  There's just one more of these and then the games start to matter.  I missed the first period, so I'm going to turn the recap over to poster Tony S for a quick summary:

Closest game to NHL level so far…. people fighting for jobs out there….. game has a bit of edge to it….. mechanically separated chicken

Thanks, Tony.  Mechanically separated chicken, indeed.  Do you want to see your non-sequitor in a future recap because I'm lazy?  Join us in the game threads!

So, we pick up action in the second, and after some weak goaltending and defensive coverage (including a shorthanded goal allowed), the team is down two goals with about a minute left. The line of Jarkko Ruutu, Chris Kelly, and Chris Neil is the only one that has looked good through forty minutes of play. They've been hitting, holding the puck, and even had a great tic-tac-toe passing play that Neil couldn't finish, because Neil is not the kind of player who can beat Henrik Lundqvist. Then out of nowhere, Chris Campoli springs Milan Michalek full speed up the boards. Jason Spezza is going stride for stride with him down the middle and tips in a perfect pass from Michalek. Michalek looked great tonight.

The third period was more of the same as the Sens scored two more goals on pretty passing plays and one from a simply outstanding individual effort from Spezza.  Continued soft goals and defensive coverage let two more in for the Rangers.  The shootout was Lundqvist vs. Elliott, so the Rangers walked away with the win.

(Heroes and zeroes after the jump...)

Sens Hero: Jason Spezza

Holy crap, does Spezza look ready for the regular season.  A three point night from the team's top center, and he was doing things almost at will out there.  We've heard a lot about Spezza being stronger and more determined this year, and he looks the part.  Easily the best Senators player on the ice, he even spent time on the PK.

Sens Hero: Chris Phillips

Phillips was only +1 on over 26 minutes of ice time, but the calming influence he has on the blue line is clearly visible. He played extensive minutes with both Erik Karlsson and Jared Cowen, and both players looked better -- much better in Cowen's case -- with him than without him. And of course, with him in the lineup, the Rangers power play went 0-for-5. Phillips had a quietly outstanding night.

Sens Heroes:  Ruutu-Kelly-Neil

Ottawa's best line for much of the early going until Michalek and Spezza found some chemistry, these guys are already in midseason form.  If the team can just put together one more good line, they can comfortably roll four lines throughout the year as long as player health permits.

Sens Hero: Milan Michalek

Michalek's scarily accurate passing led to both of Spezza's goals.  It's hard to believe he's coming off of a mangled knee, because he looks as fast as ever.  He belongs on the top line, and might surprise people with his production -- IF he continues to play like he did tonight.

Sens... Something: Chris Campoli

Ottawa's other three pointer, I was really unsatisfied with Campoli's defensive game tonight.  He looked like he was going to spend the whole night chasing the puck, and then something just seemed to click.  All of a sudden, he's springing Michalek for the team's first goal, and in the third, he's flinging passes right on the tape, and making a perfect read to bury a goal on the power play.  It was a Jekyll and Hyde kind of night: as bad as he was early, he was equally good late.  I really don't understand what happened here.

Sens Zero: Brian Lee

Remember last preseason when Lee's agent was "shocked" that Matt Carkner beat him out? Prepare for more "shock". Lee did have a great read to break up a two on one, but he also fumbled the puck often, got shoved around, and couldn't clear the front of his own net. Vaya con dios, amigo.

Sens Zero: Jared Cowen

Confirming he is not ready for prime time, Cowen was a minus three on the night.  I'm not writing him off like I am with Lee, but he needs more work.  Tonight was a step back.  He deserves his nine games, and I believe he'll get them, but he'd have to show a lot of improvement in those games to avoid being sent back to juniors.  He should fake his own death, change his name to Raoul Villardo, and then sign a new contract with the team so he can play in the AHL.  That's where he can do the organization the most good, and it sucks he can't be there.  And don't panic that he's not ready; he's only 19.

Sens Zero: Brian Elliott

Elliott opened the scoring by letting Brian Boyle blast one over his glove midway through the second. He then looked at his glove like it had a hole in it. It did not. The next two goals (Derek Stepan, shorthanded, and Derek Boogaard) came because Elliott was unable or unwilling to lay his stick flat on the ice. The fourth goal was a softie, and though it's primarily Jared Cowen's responsibility to, you know, not get skated around like a pylon, it's also Elliott's responsibility to not overcommit when a defenseman like Marc Staal rushes him so that he doesn't wind up lunging futilely to cover the far side of the net that he left wide, wide open, thus angering me AND IT'S ONLY THE PRESEASON. Elliott also made some strong saves, but he continues to let in soft goals. He won the backup job tonight, because he's a backup. I can't believe our hopes are riding on Leclaire.

Power Play update:

As you may remember, I was not especially thrilled with the power play in our last game.  I'm happy to report that it looked better tonight, going 1-for-4 thanks to Campoli's previously mentioned great read.  Apparently this is because they've had a day to work on it.  That is a very, very good sign.

Tomorrow marks the end of the preseason as the Sens will host the Rangers in a return engagement.  I hope you will join us as we hope that either Lehner plays or Leclaire manages to make it through the game healthy!

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