Sloppy second dooms Sens; lose 5-1 to Panthers

In a battle of two teams playing a second half of a back-to-back, one looked noticeably sharper

Two solid periods weren’t enough for the Senators tonight. Although the team managed to overcome a poor second period last night in Tampa Bay, they gave up two extra goals in the middle frame tonight en route to a 5-1 loss.

It was the tale of two games, with both teams having a slow, snoozefest of a first period. There were three icings in the first two minutes — including two by Christian Jaros — and outside of some slick skating by the Panthers’ Denis Malgin, there was nothing to write home about in the first 10 minutes.

The Sens’ engines started to churn later on in the period, with some great puck support nearly leading to Max McCormick’s first of the year, and Nick Paul generating some offensive zone chances while playing wing with Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel. Duchene, the team’s best player tonight, helped generate the Sens only goal by battling hard for a loose puck that Frank Vatrano took exception to — eventually cross-checking the determined forward to send the Sens on a powerplay. Here, despite some mangled units (including 1-goal forward Magnus Paajarvi), the second unit cashed in.

Off a drop-pass entry, the puck was taken wide by Chris Tierney, who eventually found Max Lajoie back at the point. Lajoie drew a forward before sending the puck down to Tierney, who found Dzingel in the high-slot for a walk-in wrist shot attempt that beat James Reimer for a 1-0 lead. It’s a four-game goal scoring streak now for Dzingel, who leads the team with nine goals, and is generating more nervousness on my estimation of the team’s ability to sign him to an extension.

The final score overshadows this, but the Sens finished the first up 10-7 in shots on goal and 13-11 in 5-on-5 shot attempts.

The bad news started right away in the second period, with Colin White shaking his wrist and leaving the ice 17 seconds into the period. White, who missed some time after getting knocked by Brayden Coburn yesterday, didn’t return for the rest of the night, and the team played rattled, showing their lack of depth.

The teams traded chances early, with Tkachuk causing having down low and Jaros setting Mark Stone up for a one-timer that he just missed blocker side, while the Cats’ second line of Vincent Trocheck and Jonathan Huberdeau generating two great chances on Mike McKenna off a broken play in transition.

It was the Panthers who kept coming, though, with Aleksander Barkov and the vaunted top line flooding the Sens zone and generating the game-tying marker. With Mark Borowiecki stung from taking an Evgenii Dadonov shot in the hand, Mike Hoffman is able to win a puck battle and find Barkov in the slot to wire it past McKenna. With assists on the play, Hoffman and Dadonov are able to extend their point streaks to 12 and 11 games respectively, close to the franchise-record mark of 13 set by Pavel Bure in 2000.

The Sens survive some in-zone pressure from the Trocheck line, but a miscue with a bouncing puck leads to a grade-A opportunity for Frank Vatrano. Although the ex-Bruin is stopped by McKenna, Cody Ceci heads off for a slashing penalty and it doesn’t take long for the Panthers to capitalize with the advantage. The team’s top defenceman in ice-time and points, Keith Yandle, works the 1-3-1 beautifully, sliding the puck to Trocheck, who goes across the seam to Huberdeau for the tally.

The Sens don’t get a chance to breathe, with Barkov taking advantage of an injured Borowiecki on his first shift back, dashing by him on the rush and drawing a tripping penalty. The Sens survive, despite three shots from Hoffman’s usual powerplay spot, thanks to some solid backstoppping from McKenna.

The game was decided in the middle part of the period, as the Sens finally start to find their feet and get three great chances to tie the game at two. The first is a squandered opportunity from Chabot, who fanned on a rolling puck after a picturesque set-up from Dzingel, Duchene, and Stone. The second is in-transition, with Chabot making a defensive stop at one end and springing Duchene and Dzingel for a 2-on-1 that’s stymied by an old-school Reimer poke-check. The last is a powerplay opportunity courtesy of a Nick Bjugstad slash on Tom Pyatt in the Cats’ zone. The Sens have good puck movement in the umbrella, and Matt Duchene has a wide open cage with some chaos in front, but Alex Petrovic is able to lift his skate up at the right moment to deflect the puck up into the glass.

After this series of opportunities, the Panthers score three quick goals in four minutes to put the game out of reach. The first came on a broken play, with Russian defenceman Bogdan Kiselevich throwing the puck up the ice to clear the zone. Christian Jaros, who struggled mightily tonight with a team-worst CF% among D, was weak on the puck, allowing Barkov to go over top of him and pot a quick snap shot on McKenna to make it 3-1. The second was baffling, with the team in good defensive position via Chabot, DeMelo, and Tierney surrounding Colton Sceviour and Troy Brouwer. However, the former was still able to get the puck to the latter, past DeMelo and a weak-covering Tierney to make it a 4-1 game. The last came off the rush, with Max Lajoie caught stepping up at the offensive blueline and getting caught on a 2-on-1. His partner, Cody Ceci, doesn’t cover the pass or the shot, taking himself out of the play and leaving McKenna to make the initial save on Vatrano, but unable to recover on the rebound.

Overall, it was a 22-shot, 27-shot attempt, 5-goals against second period: the worst of the season.

Down four, the Senators take advantage of the Panthers putting their foot on the gas and put up a 17-shot, 23-shot attempt period of their own, but can’t find the back of the net. The Sens generate two more powerplay opportunities thanks to slashing penalties from Brouwer and Trocheck, but aren’t able to generate any high-danger chances despite some decent zone time. Duchene, Dzingel, and Nick Paul looked like the team’s most dangerous forwards all period, with Paul noticeably moving his feet, winning puck battles, and getting to the front of the net. It’s hard to find positives in a 5-1 loss, but Paul is certainly deserving of seeing some more NHL ice with decent linemates, especially with Colin White and Zack Smith being uncertain for this week.

The Sens are off tomorrow, and have a couple of practice days before suiting up for a home game against the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday.

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