The Sens have only had three four-game losing streaks this season. Unfortunately, two of them have come in the last month. The good news? They always won the next game — and it’s the back-to-back series against the Detroit Red Wings that will be the focus of Guy Boucher and co.
The Senators weren’t as bad tonight as they were against Minnesota on Thursday, but after entering the third period with the game tied at 2, a point could’ve been had.
The game started with some early physical play, with none other than Mark Borowiecki at the forefront as he took out Mark Scheifele with a hard body check. The pace was tentative for much of the first — a trait that was surely part of the Senators gameplan coming into tonight — with the shots at 3 a piece 10 minutes into the game. After some four-on-four play opened the play up due to hooking penalties on Ehlers (on Pyatt) and Turris (on Lowry), Mike Hoffman showed his neutral zone prowess by forcing a neutral zone turnover on Andrew Copp. Hoff then floated to the right-side, where he took a quick pass from Derick Brassard and slapped it home off-balance for a pretty goal past Connor Hellebuyck.
The Senators almost potted another one at the end of the period, with Mark Stone finding a wide open Kyle Turris after forcing another turnover (!), but Turris missed wide. All in all, it was a pretty even period — good news for the injury-plagued Senators.
The second period began with a poor turnover by veteran Chris Kelly, who tried to reverse the puck behind the net to avoid the forecheck of Nik Ehlers but did not place the puck properly. The puck floated out in front of Condon and Blake Wheeler tapped it in on the right side — a silly goal all-around and not one that the Senators could afford to give up given their margin of error.
Thankfully for the Senators, they got the goal right back. Tom Pyatt won a puck battle in the neutral zone and fed the puck to Hoffman coming down the right wall. The skilled winger deked the puck around Bryan Little, and then through it to the net. Luckily, it took a favourable bounce past the recovering Little’s stick and past Hellebuyck to restore the Senators’ lead 11 seconds later.
From this point on, the Jets started to take over the game. Nik Ehlers had the puck on his string in the offensive zone, maneuvering around Hoffman and Pageau -- two members of the Senators “shutdown” trio -- before the latter took a tripping penalty. On the ensuing powerplay, the PK unit of Burrows, Kelly, Phaneuf, and Ceci found themselves out for the entire two minutes -- unable to clear the puck. Mike Condon made a number of great saves, including two beauties on Patrik Laine and Mathieu Perreault, but was unable to freeze the puck. Near the end of the powerplay, BUrrows has a chance to clear the puck but is unable to get it out, and although the PP ends, Adam Lowry finds a puck in front of the net and has the extra energy to outmuscle Phaneuf-Ceci to pot it past Condon to tie the game at two. If that already doesn’t sound bad enough, a replay shows that Cody Ceci hyperextended his leg battling along the boards during the PK, and although he tries to give it a whirl during the TV timeout, he ends up leaving the game -- meaning that three of the team’s top four defenders are out.
Burrows tried to redeem himself by drawing an offensive zone penalty on Josh Morrissey, and had a glorious chance on the ensuing PP, but it just wasn’t his day. The final dagger came early in the third, with the Jets pressing. After winning an offensive zone faceoff, Bryan Little ends up receiving the puck back at the right point. He then saucers the puck to Perreault -- dodging Burrows -- who wires it through a Laine screen and past Condon for the lead with 12 minutes to play.
The Jets took over the third period -- out attempting the Senators 23 - 10 until the final minutes of play. It’s hard to blame fatigue, especially on the forwards part given that the Sens had a day of rest, but it was easy to tell that the Senators D corps were playing way out of their comfort zone, and how much they missed Erik Karlsson. Case in point? They couldn’t transition the puck up the ice to press the Jets, and if it wasn’t for Mike Condon making two fantastic saves on the Jets leading scorer, the game could’ve easily been out of hand.
With the net empty, the Sens did manage to get some pressure on Connor Hellebuyck, including great looks by Kyle Turris and Mike Hoffman, but were unable to put one past him. Hoffman was clearly the maestro in Karlsson’s absence, with the team looking for a set play along the right side of the ice. Mark Stone, who actually left a Jets game NOT injured for once (!!!) made a spectacular second effort to save an empty-net goal with a minute remaining, but then gave the puck away with an errant pass through the neutral zone to Ehlers, who sealed the game at 4-2.
Sens Hero: Mike Hoffman
The best Sens forward tonight, Hoffman potted his 24th and 25th goals of the season and nearly got the hat-trick in the last minute. He played his tough competition to around even in the shot metrics, too.
Sens Zeroes: Pierre Dorion’s acquisitions
When you tout the character of the players you’re bringing in, you expect them to step up in games like tonight and not be the causes of defeat. Chris Kelly -- the perpetrator of the first goal -- was on the ice for 1 shot attempt for and 12 against (alongside Tommy Wingels) while Alex Burrows put up a 35% CF%, made a key mistake on the PK, and lost his player on the game-winning goal. He should be nowhere near the top-six, but since his addition, Ryan Dzingel has been playing ~11 minutes a night despite being a more effective player in all aspects. Dzingel only played 6 minutes tonight. With the team “lighting candles at a church” for Erik Karlsson’s return on Monday and Cody Ceci confirmed out, someone has to step up before the Sens find themselves playing Washington in the first round.
Game Flow via Natural Stat Trick
Heat Map via Natural Stat Trick
Playoff chances, West and East. pic.twitter.com/gUkfuIYzZl— Micah Blake McCurdy (@IneffectiveMath) April 1, 2017
With Toronto and Boston both winning in regulation and Tampa getting a point against Montreal in OT, it wasn’t a good night to be scoreboard watching as a Sens fan. Note that heading into tonight’s game, the Sens still had a 97% chance to make the playoffs -- it just means that instead of competing for the division lead like they were JUST A SHORT WEEK AGO, they’re competing to stay in the Atlantic and play Toronto/Boston than cross over and face the powerhouse Capitals in the first round.