Sens Lose Ugly, Ugly Game to the Leafs

A recap of the game between the Senators and Maple Leafs on March 28th.

For the Senators, the pre-game information was shrouded in mystery. It was uncertain who would start in goal for the Sens, since they had three injured goalies and a healthy ECHL goalie whose only NHL action came Thursday against the Rangers after the outcome had long been decided. Additionally, Clarke MacArthur was drawing back into the game, despite the fact that he'd been wearing a tinted visor in practice a day earlier to minimize his concussion symptoms. For the Maple Leafs, the big news coming in was the fight in practice a day earlier between Phil Kessel and David Booth in practice.

The game started with a classy gesture by the Leafs organization. Garrett Gamble Jr. from Duck Lake, Saskatechewan had been born with Morquio Syndrome. Through the Make-A-Wish Foundation, he'd wanted to drop the puck at a Leafs game. More than that, the team signed him to a one-day contract, gave him his own stall in the dressing room, and had him skated around by Wendel Clark before the game. Though the Leafs' season is effectively over, it was a nice gesture and a good reminder of the power of sport.

The game started rather poorly for Ottawa. Toronto had the majority of the good scoring chances, with Booth getting robbed by Craig Anderson on a high wrist-shot right in front. Bobby Ryan took an early accidental penalty on Dion Phaneuf, but the Sens' penalty killers were more than up to the task. A strong kill allowed them to grab back some momentum in the game. The other noticeable thing about the first ten minutes or so was the scrappiness of play. Passes weren't crisp, and players seemed to keep falling down. It made for some pretty ugly hockey.

Joakim Lindstrom came in one-on-one with Patrick Wiercioch. With some soft hands, he got himself around Wiercioch and forced him into taking a penalty. Patty W got his stick in the skates and the refs called a penalty shot. I immediately called penalty shot on the play, though several Sens fans on Twitter disagreed with me. Thankfully, Lindstrom isn't that good at hockey. Anderson didn't bite on the fake shot, and left no space for Lindstrom to tuck it in backhand. You could see Wiercioch's look of relief on the bench after the save.

Alex Chiasson got a couple good looks in the period, throwing a rebound wide, and driving wide on a backhand but with James Reimer following him the whole way. Shortly after, Zack Smith had two great opportunities, but on the first he hesitated until the pass was gone and had to dump it deep, and on the second he tried to force the pass to Mike Hoffman instead of taking a clear shot. That would do it for the period, with the Sens leading in shots 9-7 but with no score on the board.

Bob Cole described the first period as listless. I wasn't sure it was possible, but the second started with even less energy.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>This is game is so slow that Bob Cole can keep up with it.</p>&mdash; Bonk&#39;s Mullet (@BonksMullet) <a href="">March 29, 2015</a></blockquote>
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Thankfully, just when I was worried I'd fall asleep, MacArthur found Mark Stone in front on a good play to open the scoring. Kyle Turris was the close pass, and Erik Karlsson crept in on the far side to be the third forward. Stone stayed high in the slot, and when he got the pass, he was uncovered and Reimer was not in position.

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A good active stick by Marc Methot broke up a Leafs 2-on-1 shortly after. Then off a defensive zone draw, Z Smith broke out between Dion Phaneuf and Eric Brewer, picking up a loose puck to give himself a breakaway. Reimer made a pretty shaky save on the play, drifting backward into his net, but he didn't lose the puck.

Just after, the line Glenn Healy called the best third line in hockey (Erik Condra - Jean-Gabriel Pageau - Curtis Lazar) picked up Ottawa's second of the game. Condra brought the puck in, passed it to Pageau in the slot who backhanded it one further to Lazar. He got a shot away that T.J. Brennan got a bit of his stick on, but that only led to a knuckle-puck that Reimer couldn't save.

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For Lazar, it was his third goal in four games. He had a slow start to the season, and I was worried earlier on in this run when JGP and Condra were piling up the points and Lazar had nothing to show for it. I'm happy to see the points starting to come for him.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>That&#39;s 3 goals in 4 games for Lazar since he ate a burger off the ice. <a href="">#goalhungry</a></p>&mdash; Ian Mendes (@ian_mendes) <a href="">March 29, 2015</a></blockquote>
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The period went back to being pretty boring a for a while. With about eight minutes left, Pageau took Brennan hard into the boards. Brennan took exception, and decided to hit back at Pageau. The two dropped their gloves, giving Pageau the first fight of his NHL career, albeit a rather short fight.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>To be honest if you told me that Pageau was going to punch a Brennan, I figured it would be <a href="">@SunDoniB</a></p>&mdash; Ian Mendes (@ian_mendes) <a href="">March 29, 2015</a></blockquote>
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The worst part of the fight was that Lazar and Condra were lacking their centreman for a couple shifts. I've been fairly happy with David Legwand's play as of late, but he doesn't have the speed to play effectively on that line.

Hoffman set up Mika Zibanejad for a fantastic chance all alone in front, but he just barely couldn't walk around Reimer to tuck it in. Joffrey Lupul essentially let DJ Z-Bad walk in. To my eyes, it looked like a lazy play by someone who has already given up on the season. The Leafs would outshoot the Sens 14-12 in the period, but the Sens had the lead where it mattered.

The third period started just as slowly as the first two. Just under five minutes in, a bad giveaway allowed James van Riemsdyk to walk in and pass the puck past Anderson for an easy tap-in for Tyler Bozak. Eric Gryba couldn't keep up with van Riemsdyk, and Mark Borowiecki failed to pick up on Bozak until it was too late.

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After the play, Eric Gryba rubbed out JVR along the boards, which led to a heated scrum in the corner. However, there were no penalties on the play for reasons I didn't quite understand.

There were a number of near misses at either end. Marc Methot, of all people, pinched in and nearly put the puck in on a great pass. At the other end, Karlsson couldn't handle van Riemsdyk in front, who pulled out some dekes to get a great chance that Anderson pushed aside.

After boarding calls on hits against MacArthur and Smith went uncalled, Trevor Smith took a pretty soft one on a hit against Gryba. The Sens won the face-off, and Legwand set up Turris in the high slot who snapped one past Reimer. Stone definitely helped the goal happen by being a pest in front of Reimer, who almost stopped the shot - it hit the end of his blocker and dropped down into the net.

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Not long after, MacArthur took his own boarding penalty against Morgan Rielly, who stayed down for a few seconds after. It led to a lot of rough stuff in the zone, which eventually led to the first face-off being taken outside the Sens' zone. However, once the Leafs gained entry, the Sens weren't able to do much. Kessel passed it to van Riemsdyk who couldn't handle the pass, but it glanced off his skate directly to Bozak who tucked it in off the post. Moments after the next face-off, Zibanejad tried to hack the puck out of the zone and cleared the glass, sending the Leafs right back to the powerplay facing a one-goal deficit. On that powerplay, Kessel would again find Bozak in front who rang it hard off the crossbar. It was a lucky break that the Sens really needed.

The Leafs pulled their goalie with 2:30 left in the third to push for the tie. Anderson came out to challenge a point shot, and Kessel got the puck behind the goal line with an empty net. He tried to throw the puck in front, where it deflected high off Borowiecki's stick. Anderson was off-balance, but managed to hit it out of the air with his blocker twice before everyone converged in the crease. Anderson was knocked down on the play, but the puck somehow managed to stay out. Ottawa had a couple chances to go for the empty net, but players were gassed and couldn't get around backchecking Leafs. With about a minute and a half left in the game, another cross-crease pass got around Anderson, this time tipping off Bozak's stick and in off the far post to tie the score. It gave Bozak his first career NHL hat-trick.

That would do it for scoring in regulation. The Leafs would badly outhustle the Sens in that period, outshooting them 8-3. It was a very, very poor period of play from the Sens.

Overtime definitely delivered on what OT is supposed to deliver on: lots of back-and-forth action. Kessel got a breakaway, Turris set up Stone who missed wide on a backhand. However, the end felt inevitable: on a bad backcheck, Bozak was somehow left wide open again. He drilled it off the post, it got caught up in a diving Anderson's gear, and spilled out in front of the net. Sprawling Senators couldn't cover the net, and Eric Brewer tucked it into a gaping cage for the OT win.

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OT shots 2-1 for the Leafs. It was a game the Sens couldn't afford to lose, and they never really showed up for it.

Sens Hero: Mark Stone

To my eyes Stone was the best Senators player tonight, making things happen every time he was on the ice. It's too bad he couldn't have scored the OT winner, because it would've been the proper finish to a pretty great game by Stone.

Dishonourable Mention: Mike Hoffman

He got benched in the first period for a bad giveaway, and never managed to get his spot back on the top line. Hoffman is a better option than Chiasson on that line in my opinion, but Hoffman wasn't doing himself any favours tonight. He looked to be trying to do too much, holding onto the puck for a long time. His indecisiveness in the offensive zone led to the OT winner.

Playing injured? Kyle Turris

Turris hasn't looked himself in the last couple games. He was the CBC second star tonight with a couple points, but to me he didn't look comfortable. His goal was a fluke, and his assist had little to do with himself. It was more that he didn't look great in his own zone. Plays like his failure to ice the game on the empty net with 90 seconds left just didn't seem typical for Turris. I can't help but wonder if he's not playing at 100%.

Sens Zero: Mark Borowiecki

For some reason, he and Gryba are seen as the "shutdown duo". The problem is that Borocop can't shut down players very often. He lost Bozak completely on the 2-1 goal, and couldn't figure out how to get the puck out of the zone on the PK. Maybe it's just that I'm not a fan of his game in general, but he was my most disliked player tonight.

Sens Killer: Tyler Bozak

Why does this guy always seem to have his best games against the Sens?

Ugly, ugly game flow:

Highlights (or lowlights):

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