Recall, if you dare, the Ottawa Senators’ last game against the Minnesota Wild, back in October. They fell on the road, 5-4 in overtime, but the score didn’t necessarily reflect the degree (a significant degree, to be exact) to which the Senators were outplayed.
Tonight’s contest was a little different. It highlights the massive amount of progress the Sens have made over the course of this season. And in a losing season, that’s exactly what a young team should be looking for.
The Wild are quite the formidable squad, capable of feats such as humiliating the Edmonton Oilers 7-3, as they did on Sunday, but the Senators were up to the task of playing a pretty even hockey game against one of the league’s best, winning said hockey game 4-3, and trailing for approximately 0:00.
Prior to tonight, Ottawa had been without Thomas Chabot for the last four games due to an upper-body injury, and early on in this game — the 300th of his NHL career, he proved that his presence in the lineup was required to give the team a fighting chance.
After winning a puck battle down low, Chris Tierney moved the puck to Artem Zub, who in turn went across the blue line to Chabot, who skated in and ripped a shot through the blocker side of Cam Talbot to open the scoring at 2:09 in the first period.
After killing off a pair of Wild power-plays, Chabot would get on the scoresheet again near the end of the period, as a fortunate bounce on a clearing attempt during an Ottawa power-play led to a 2-0 advantage at 17:05, courtesy of the captain.
BRADDDYYYY TKACHUKK!!!!— Pesky Sickos (@PeskySickos) February 23, 2022
The #Sens kept the pressure up and kept pounding away on the power-play, which leads to a sharp-angle goal from Brady Tkachuk on a pretty open net.
2-0 game. #Sens #GoSensGo pic.twitter.com/b97cH6HdLT
No matter how the puck ends up in the net, watching two stars like Brady Tkachuk and Thomas Chabot work together is always a treat, and it’s only going to become even more fun with the eventual return of Josh Norris and Drake Batherson.
Despite an excellent first period in which they outshot the Wild 13-11, the Senators found themselves on their heels for much of the second. There were multiple instances in which the Wild entered the Ottawa zone with a numbers advantage or found holes in their defensive structure, and the team wasn’t able to give Anton Forsberg nearly as much support as they did in the first period. Minnesota was able to tie the game on two of these opportunities — first, at 6:31, Kevin Fiala cut Ottawa’s lead in half.
Then, after what could be considered a missed tripping call on Tkachuk, Jared Spurgeon successfully converted on a 4-on-2 rush at 12:40 to even the score.
It’s true that the Wild, having tied the game, was now carrying the play, but the Sens were still keeping up a level of effort that inspired a belief that there was a chance they could regain the lead. And with 3:38 remaining on a routine possession in the Minnesota end, a blocked shot off the stick of Josh Brown bounced right to Tim Stützle, who took advantage of the chaos with a quick wrist shot to give the lead right back to Ottawa.
The Wild pressed for a tying goal once again in the third period, but a determined Ottawa club held their own in the defensive zone with more success, while not generating much of their own offense. Unfortunately, they were caught off guard by a strong forecheck four minutes into the frame — as Thomas Chabot was pressured by two Wild forwards, he was forced to make a pass into an area with no support, and Jon Merill took advantage. Once again, the game was tied.
One step forward, one step back. Once again, the Senators found themselves in a perilous position. Their recent loss to Boston came at the hands of David Pastrnak. Against the Rangers, it was Artemi Panarin. Which star player would deal the finishing blow this time?
By the time I had run this thought through my head, Thomas Chabot had made it 4-3 for the Ottawa Senators.
It’s a moment that takes a game we won’t remember and turns it into one we will. This team showed a lot of guts in the recent losing efforts we’ve seen, but with the return of the star defenceman they’ve depended on for years, they needed to show us even more tonight, and they rose to the challenge.
Chabot’s three-point game gave them a third chance to defend a one-goal lead with under six minutes to go, and they came through. Predictably, the Wild wreaked havoc in the Ottawa zone in the dying seconds, but the always-reliable Nick Holden wasn’t about to let any more pucks go into the net. Safety First!
With a 4-3 victory, the Sens took both the game and the season series from Minnesota, and improve to 19-26-5 on the season.
- Anton Forsberg made 39 saves on 42 shots tonight, and while his defense did a deceptively good job at preventing quality chances against even-strength, they would’ve been trouble without his heroics on the penalty kill. The case for re-signing him becomes stronger with each passing game, but weirdly enough, so does the case for trading him.
- Alex Formenton is always drawing tons of attention from fans with his trademark speed, but his victim in today’s game was what made him especially stand out in this game. I don’t Jonas Brodin is used to seeing this happen to him:/
Alex formenton with some crazy speed and the hands to match. Puts Brodin in the spin cycle. pic.twitter.com/2MqYTVg3hz— Lalime's Martian (@LalimesMartian) February 23, 2022
- Tim Stützle now has goals in three of his last four. The offensive instincts, the two-way awareness, and the fantastic skating are all there. Add in an improved shot and another offseason of building strength and this could be very interesting.
- The Wild had their way with Ottawa’s fourth line tonight, but Austin Watson drawing a penalty in the last minutes with support from Parker Kelly was extremely clutch.
- Thomas Chabot. Need I say anything else?
- Actually, yes I do. He played 24:35 tonight. That’s the ideal workload he should have, and I’m certain he can really turn his production up a notch if the coaching staff continues to properly manage his minutes going forward./
- Tonight’s win was very impressive, but if these guys follow that up with a loss to the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday, February 26th (7:00 PM EST), I swear to god.../