The Ottawa Senators' 4-3 win over the New York Islanders on Sunday was one of those 'find a way to win' games. A good start helped the Sens to a pretty early 1-0 lead, but they slowed down for the last half of the first and were completely missing in the second, allowing the Islanders to take a 3-1 lead. A huge 5-on-3 penalty kill to start the third period got Ottawa back into the game, and Alex Kovalev scored a goal and two assists to drive the Senators past the Isles and take the two points. Although not huge in isolation, the win was a big one because it leaves Ottawa on a winning note going into the break as the top team in the Northeast Division.
Sens heroes: Alex Kovalev, Ryan Shannon
In the third period, Kovalev really stepped up. He was double-shifted for a lot of it, playing 7:46 TOI in that period, and racking up his three points in just under seven minutes of that period. He was +2 and had five shots on the night, and has looked like the game-changer Ottawa has wanted him to be for a good while now. He's on a four-game point-scoring streak, with 7P (3G, 4A) in that span--and plenty of meaningful points in the process.
Shannon was a huge component of Kovalev's strong third period. The two look like a great wing pairing, especially with Peter Regin in the middle, and work well together. The speed of Shannon, and to a lesser extent Regin, give options to Kovalev, and he opens up ice for his linemates. Although he's not able to be effective every game, tonight was an opportunity for Shannon to use his quickness in a game with little physicality, and he took advantage of the extra space.
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Sens zeros: Filip Kuba, Derek Smith
Kuba has a four-game assist streak, and has six assists in that span. But he's still been a Sens zero for three straight games, despite good point totals. The criticism is based on the expectations of Kuba: He's expected to put points up, and he's starting to do that regularly, but he's also expected to be defensively sound--something that's been lacking in his game for the majority of the season. He's the highest-paid defenceman, and he's expected to play like it.
It was his second NHL game, so I almost feel bad tagging D. Smith with a zero, but he was. On the ice for all three Isles goals, D. Smith was blameworthy on a couple, and was benched in the third period as a result. He's been capable at times, but has also looked overwhelmed by the speed of the NHL game at other times. I'm certain that with more time he'd be more solid in the league, but it's unlikely he'll play another game in the NHL this season, unless Ottawa runs into more injury trouble (knock on wood).
Worst game of the year for: Daniel Alfredsson
A pretty good game for most Senators, but using the precedent Alfie has set for himself, it was an off-night. An off-night left Alfie even and with one assist, but he looked visibly fatigued out there, and made some uncharacteristically poor decisions as a result. Most grievous were two giveaways to Sean Bergenheim in the second period while Ottawa was on the powerplay, and both resulted in pretty good scoring chances for the Isles forward.
Shortening the bench: D. Smith, Jesse Winchester sit out the third
Cory Clouston usually likes to roll four lines and three defence pairings, but showed another side tonight in shortening the bench. D. Smith, as mentioned above, didn't play in the third, but Winchester also sat out the period after being on the ice for all three Islanders goals in the second period. He only played 4:03 TOI, by far the lowest ice time of any player in the game.
Don't be worried: Matt Cullen
At this point, the acquisition of Cullen looks a little iffy. We're left with a shortage of defencemen, and Cullen hasn't really done much (he has one shot in two games). But it's been two games so far, and we should be able to expect Erik Karlsson back in Ottawa's lineup after the Olympic break. The team also has the benefit of a period of time for Cullen to develop some chemistry with his linemates, particularly during the mini-training camp right after the Olympic break.
Lighting it up: Jonathan Cheechoo
Cheechoo made his debut in Binghamton today, and had a goal, an assist, six shots, and two PIM in Bingo's 4-2 win over the Rochester Americans. Is there a Rocket Richard trophy in the AHL?
Cheechoo should really help the B-Sens make up for the lack of Kaspars Daugavins during the Olympic break (Ed. note: Cheechoo will reportedly be off for the Olympic break, but will return to Binghamton afterwards).
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