Senators survive bizarre game to defeat Red Wings, 4-2
It was a weird one.
I'm very rarely at a loss for words, but last night's game managed to accomplish just that, so we're just going to let the highlights do the talking:
Yes, this game saw the Ottawa Senators give up three separate 5-on-3s for a total of 3:45 to the Detroit Red Wings. It also saw the Wings give up a 5-on-3 and 4-on-3 to the Sens. Both teams went 2-for-8 on the power play for the night. The Red Wings out-shot the Senators 36-29, largely thanks to a 17-7 shot differential in the first period. The Senators gave up the first goal yet again. Good luck figuring out how this one played out.
Sens Hero: Robin Lehner
The difference in the game. Remember when Lehner let in a bunch of soft goals against the Philadelphia Flyers? Yeah, me neither. Lehner stopped 34 of 36 for a save percentage of .944 on the night. It's not so much that he played great--which he did--it's that he played smart. Lehner repeatedly chose to smother the puck, killing Detroit's chances to cycle the puck and maintain possession. Lehner single-handedly broke up plays. The Senators breakout problems were minimized tonight thanks to Lehner. He'd simply get a faceoff, and with Jason Spezza, Kyle Turris, and Z. Smith all over .500 in the circle on the night, it made for an easier night in the defensive zone. It was the kind of game the team needed from its goalies this season.
Sens Killer: Discipline
Strangely, not in the conventional sense. Though the team still gave up 36 shots, they played a much more composed defensive game and the turnovers and flubbed passes that have been so typical this season were, by and large, kept to a minimum. What was not kept to a minimum, however, were penalties. I don't think I've ever seen a real-life game where one team has given up three extended 5-on-3s. The fact that Ottawa was able to kill two of them off is really pretty astounding. And let's be honest--it involved plenty of luck. Detroit missed multiple chances to hit open nets. By all rights, the Senators should have been in dire straits thanks to their inability to stay out of the box.
Sens Hero: Clarke MacArthur
How about MacArthur devising his own breakout to set up the first goal? He reverses the puck so he can curl backwards and come up the wing with speed, gets the puck in deep, and then heads to the front of the net. It took Bobby Ryan two tries to find him, but Bobby Ryan is typically going to find you if you're open. On his second goal of the night, MacArthur just hung around and the stars do their jobs. Jason Spezza and Erik Karlsson created a bunch of space by passing the puck around until finally Patrick Weircioch fired a shot that Wings goalie Jimmy Howard could see cleanly--and thus, couldn't stop cleanly. All MacArthur had to do was pounce on the rebound swipe it between Howards legs. MacArthur played a smart game tonight.
Sens Hero: Chris Neil
With a fight, a goal, and a penalty that allowed the game's first goal, Neil was all over the ice in this one. And while I'm not in favor of penalties that put your team in a hole, I also think it's undeniable that Neil helped his team dig out of it. His go-ahead goal late in the first was no thing of beauty--it just pinballed in--but you don't need style points to be a hero. The game began to turn for the Senators when Neil decided to run around and piss everyone off. His fight was the result of nothing more than Brendan Smith being tired of getting hit. Neil was credited with 6 hits in this game, and It was pretty clear that he was under the Wings' skin to a man--Johan Franzen was yelling at him for most of the third period, and seemed to want to drop the gloves. Neil was smart enough not to oblige, which means he did his job well for the game.
Moment of the Night: Untouched, Pavel Datsyuk's helmet strap rides up on his chin and he drops to the ice like the Joker had just high-sticked him. Lying on the ice, prone, with his head in his hands, Datsyuk does not draw a high-sticking penalty because penalties have to involve the other team. I don't want to say the Red Wings went down easily, but the Senators players might.
Edit: It turns out this is a lie. Replays clearly show that Cowen elbowed Datsyuk. That is seriously uncool. I love Datsyuk.
Honorable Mention: Jared Cowen
Second on the team with four hits, Cowen was a major contributor to the kind of physical play that turned the game around for the Senators. I can't give him hero status on the night, since he also took a hooking penalty and a high-sticking penalty, but a return to physical defense in his own zone is a good start for the much-maligned youngster.
Sens Zero: Colin Greening
Z. Smith was fine. Chris Neil was fine. Colin Greening was a passenger. That's all there is to say.
Honorable Mention: Derek Grant
Although he had a rough night on faceoffs, the Derek Grant power hour was in full effect tonight. His 5-on-5 numbers were not great, but he played 30.9% of Ottawa's short-handed time on this game. He was crucial in killing two of the 5-on-3s as well as the less-common 5-on-4 situations.
Sens Hero: Bobby Ryan
Blobby scored the game-winner during the Senators' own 5-on-3. Spezza found Karlsson, Karlsson found Ryan, Ryan found the back of the net. As previously mentioned, he also did great work to find MacArthur for the team's first goal, and he had another outstanding backhand feed from the goal-mouth that just missed blossoming into a second goal for whomever was on the receiving end.
#FreeMika: Zibanejad finally got his chance to play with Spezza and Milan Michalek, and did... not much. Zibanejad wasn't awful--he hasn't been awful at any point this year--but he followed up a one-goal, one-assist game with a zero-goal, zero-assist game despite playing with better linemates and getting more ice time. Whoops. It's not a fair audition because the 5-on-5 play was so disjointed, and hopefully Mika gets another chance against Carolina. But he'll have to do better if he wants to keep that spot. It turns out you can't just throw talented players together and have them magically succeed. Who knew?
Honorable Mention: Patrick Weircioch
Two assists, one on the power play, should keep him in the lineup for another game.
A Rant: I don't understand how I avoid a brain hemmorage like Roland after blowing his horn every time I see Chris Phillips out on the power play. I understand when guys like Erik Karlsson have to get out there on 5-on-3s, especially when the two guys in the box are Phillips and Cowen, but how in the hell does head coach Paul MacLean think that Phillips is a legitimate option on the power play? It should be obvious to anyone watching that Ottawa's power play is designed to create shooting lanes by passing the puck. That means threading some tight needles to find the open man. And look, I love Phillips and don't have a problem with the way he plays hockey, but the skills needed to succeed on the power play--Vision, Passing, and Shooting--are not the first three skills I'd list in his game. I don't get it.