With the Ottawa Senators' mothers in attendance, you could bet that the players were going to feel extra motivated on Sunday afternoon. It was also the first game of the season for Shane Pinto, with Ottawa having as close to a fully optimal lineup as they've had in a very long time.
The Senators began the game completely dominating the Philadelphia Flyers, as they even held the puck for about two minutes in the offensive zone just before their first powerplay of the game. However, as always seems to be the case this season, it wasn't enough to begin the game with the lead. The Flyers got on the board one of the strangest goals you'll ever see.
Everybody thought Mads Søgaard had the puck covered somewhere, but nobody could see where it was. In reality, it had gone up in the air and back to Egor Zamula at the point, and all he had to do was shoot it in the empty net. The only problem was, the referee blew the whistle as the puck was being shot:
I don't think I've ever seen a goal count after the whistle was blown like that, but in the spirit of the rule (and the actual rule), it should count because the puck was clearly loose. Still though, it was an incredibly frustrating way to be down 1-0. Then five minutes later, Zamula would double the Flyers’ lead on a great shot from the slot where Søgaard was partially screened. A good start for the Sens now meant nothing, as it was 2-0 Flyers after the first period.
Although a lot of the first period included great passing from the top players on the Senators, it was Zack MacEwan who got them on the board, scoring against his former team. His second of the season was another gem of a goal, scoring top corner past Samuel Ersson:
Halfway through the period, Jacob Bernard-Docker would take a lazy tripping penalty that proved costly. With 9:10 to go, Joel Farabee scored a powerplay goal on a stoppable wrist shot from the point, making it 3-1 Flyers. Ottawa didn't seem to give up though, as they were putting on tons of pressure and were controlling the puck for a good amount of time while the Flyers had another delayed penalty. There was a scramble in front of the net, and nobody seemed to know where the puck was yet again. The whistle blew, but this time, the puck actually crossed the line after the whistle, and despite nobody knowing the puck went in, it counted as a goal:
Ottawa now puts one in the net as the whistle goes. The Flyers were literally given a goal under these same circumstances earlier in the game. #GoSensGo— Everyday Sens (@EverydaySens) January 21, 2024
Play is under review (puck clearly crossed before the whistle). pic.twitter.com/sKjDvbcAIA
It wasn't pretty, but it counted as Tim Stützle's 9th goal, and it was 3-2 heading into the final frame.
A few minutes into the third, it was former hometown hero Claude Giroux who made a nifty move with his foot to pass it to himself and score in front of the net:
Who else but former Flyer Claude Giroux to tie this game up? 🤭 pic.twitter.com/I0PO5f6u7R— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) January 21, 2024
What's incredible is that there were some audible "boo"s in the crowd towards Giroux, which just baffles me.
A scary moment happened minutes later, as Søgaard got hit in the mask by Garnet Hathaway's skate after he was tripped into the crease by Jacob Bernard-Docker, and it looked like Søgaard might have been hurt. Thankfully he was okay, but play had to be stopped for a moment.
The final 10 minutes of the game were quite entertaining, with both teams giving it their all. In one shift, Ridly Greig laid a massive hit on Rasmus Ristolainen, Søgaard stoned Cam Atkinson on a breakaway, then Mathieu Joseph made a perfect pass to Vladimir Tarasenko on a two-on-one, with Tarasenko scoring to give the Senators the lead with just 4:53 to play. Søgaard's big save was one the team has not gotten often this season, and it immediately led to them taking the lead:
Then with Ersson pulled, Tim Stützle showed some phenomenal hand-eye coordination to put the game away for the Senators' fifth goal. Ottawa gave their moms a win by a final score of 5-3.
- Each team had a weird goal tonight, and I think ultimately the refs got them both right. Senators fans would have been going crazy if they scored the same way the Flyers did and it didn't count, because the reality is the whistle didn't have any bearing on players battling. Both deserve to be goals, even if they were very strange.
- Despite their mediocre roster on paper, the Flyers have actually been a solid team this season, and the Senators had an xGF% of 67.44%. In fact, that's the fifth straight game (and sixth of seven) they've had north of 57% in the expected goals. Maybe the message is getting through?
- Pinto had one assist, two shots, and 14:33 of ice time in his first game back, and although he didn't look bad, I can't say he stood out too much. It'll take some time to get used to these games, but it's great to have him back.
- Søgaard stopped 22 of 25 shots, which isn't great overall, but the first goal was incredibly strange. If he stops that one, 23/25 is a .920 SV%, plus he stopped Atkinson on the breakaway when the team needed him the most. More of that, please.
- Travis Hamonic left the game in the second period due to an upper-body injury, and it's unclear if he'll miss any time.