The Sens first game since the holiday break can be told simply with two tweets.
Sens played well, goalie didn't. It happens. Won't lose too often when you outshoot opposition 36-25 over long haul— Nate (@NKB121) December 28, 2016
Shot locations from senators at rangers are sort of bleakly funny. pic.twitter.com/Q2VFxuOcOH— Micah Blake McCurdy (@IneffectiveMath) December 28, 2016
The game started off with a ton of joy, as three minutes in, Mark Borowiecki ended up with the puck at the left point and wired home a wrister for his first goal in almost a calendar year, on his first shot since December 15th.
One minute later, Zack Smith continued his hot streak after coralling a Karlsson shot and popping the puck past Raanta. With the Rangers coming off back-to-back outings where they had given up 7 goals, both Sens fans at home and the Rangers fans at MSG were thinking a similar outcome was in the works.
The pace eventually settled down as all four lines got into the game, with the Rangers collapsing in front of Raanta and a neutral zone battle emerging between the two clubs. After Kyle Turris and Mark Staal took coinciding minors halfway in, the game opened back up and this time, it was the Rangers who cashed in. Nick Holden, ex-Avs defender who’s slotted nicely on the Rangers bottom-pair, was a thorn in the Senators side tonight and got the best of Mike Condon with a 4-on-4 goal from a bad angle. It’s the first of three that Condon would like to have back, and likely not the worst of the bunch.
After Condon made two nice stops on Brandon Pirri and Mats Zuccarello, the Sens responded to the Rangers sudden outburst with another goal of their own. In an eerily similar fashion to Borowiecki’s tally, Cody Ceci ended his season-long drought with a goal after Hoffman directed traffic by steering the puck in the high slot. Tom Pyatt, who was excellent in the first, flew by Raanta at just the right time to block his line of sight, allowing Ceci the deception needed to find twine.
As always in a game of back-and-forth, the momentum swung again to start the second period. With Ryan Dzingel in the box after taking a hooking penalty 43 seconds in, Mike Condon fronted a Kreider shot but slid too far to the right, leaving the net wide open. Derek Stepan was first to the puck, and potted home his first goal of the period just as the penalty to Dzingel expired.
The stage was then set for Antti Raanta to start his revenge on the Sens. With the Rangers called for too many men on the ice, Cody Ceci snuck in from the left point and came this close from getting his second of the night before Raanta sprawled out to make the save. The chance, set up after Bobby Ryan fronted a Karlsson shot and sent the puck to Ceci, gave Raanta very little time to push across, but the Rangers netminder was able to get his right pad on it to keep it as a one-goal game.
Then, at even-strength, Ryan Dzingel attempted to make amends for his earlier error and generated two great individual scoring chances. First, he flew down the right side past Nick Holden and one-handed the puck onto Raanta, and THEN had the wherewithal to stay with the puck to try and pot the rebound far side, but his attempt hit the post. On his next shift, Dzingel generates speed down the left side and has a 2-on-1, but Raanta’s blocker had the answer.
As you can tell, the game opened up considerably, with Kreider using his speed to generate a chance on Condon and Stepan getting robbed by Condon’s glove on an odd-man rush of his own. The physical play also picked up, with Chris Neil in the middle of it as always — ultimately drawing a penalty on Mats Zuccarello after the Norweigan retaliated on Neil’s clean check of Brady Skjei near the Rangers bench.
The Sens don’t generate much on the PP outside of a Dion Phaneuf net-front chance, but due to some ensuing scrums, I think the refs got a bit worried on whether they could control the game. Hence, Jean-Gabriel Pageau was given a goaltender interference penalty after taking the puck aggressively to the net, and the Rangers cashed in quickly. It was the only goal against that Condon had no chance on, as a won face-off went back to McDonagh, across to Zuccarello, and then redirected by Stepan in the high slot past Condon to tie the game at 3.
The third period was frustrating on many accounts. The physicality continued, with Mark Stone (!) fighting Jimmy Vesey after the latter blindsided Brassard (who was okay on the play) five minutes into the period. Kyle Turris then joined Stone in the box as he held Oscar Lindberg as he lost inside position defending the Swede off the rush. On the ensuing powerplay, the Sens did a great job pressuring the offence for a majority of the kill, but got sloppy with two missed clears near the end. It ultimately led to Nick Holden scoring from the goal line with a jam play short-side on Condon as the PP expires, giving the Rangers their first lead of the night. The Sens actually challenged for offside earlier in the play, and although it was unsuccessful, it allowed Guy Boucher to give his players a rest longer than a regular 30-second timeout would’ve allowed.
The “timeout” appeared to work, as it was all Sens after that. Curtis Lazar (!) almost made it a first-goal hat-trick with a sneaky wrister off a won draw, and Marc Methot almost potted the team’s third goal by a defenceman on the night, but were stopped by the post and Raanta’s blocker respectively. On consecutive Rangers offensive zone tripping penalties, the Sens hit two three more posts, with ex-Ranger Derick Brassard’s wrister hitting both but staying out and Hoffman hitting one of his own on the powerplay. Boucher rode the Hoffman - Turris - Stone, Methot - Karlsson unit for a majority of the period, with Karlsson playing over 11 minutes in the third. Kyle Turris hit another pipe in the final minutes of the game, but the Sens were unable to score, losing their first game in regulation after being tied after two periods this season.
All situations xGF (3.75 - 2.56) and scoring chances (33-26), by the way, ended up favouring the Sens. Like the two tweets at the beginning stated — sometimes, you generate a lot but end up unlucky. If the Sens, minus Condon, play like this every night, they’re going to win a lot of hockey games.
Sens Heroes: Hoffman - Brassard - Stone
The trio were on for 12 shots for and only 2 against at 5-on-5, and were responsible for many dangerous offensive chances tonight. Hoffman had two points in the first and found himself reunited with his old linemates, partly due to his improved play but also due to Zack Smith leaving the game early in the second with an upper body injury. He didn’t return.
Sens Zero: Mike Condon
It was easily Condon’s worst game of the season, with three goals (two to Holden) that he’d like back. He had a .924 sv% coming into tonight’s game, but looked shaky against Anaheim before the holidays and unsure of himself tonight. He struggled in Montreal last season after taking on an increased workload, and I’m starting to wonder if his 12 straight appearances are starting to lead to some fatigue seeping into his play. Matt O’Connor is up with the Sens tonight, but surely won’t start Daniel Alfredsson day on Thursday. I wonder if Craig Anderson, who’s been around for most of the “big” starts this season, is in net as TSN reported he watched the game from the stands tonight while his wife received treatment in nearby New Jersey.
Game Flow via Natural Stat Trick