All of the pre-game chatter was not about the hockey game itself, but rather Daniel Alfredsson. For those who missed it, Alfie went for a nice car ride with Bryan Murray in the afternoon. Of course, it's possible that Alfie was worried about his former GM's battle with cancer and wanted to hear his story, not the media's story. But with all the stories about Alfie's expected retirement, they may have also been discussing any number of plans: announcing the retirement when Detroit is in Ottawa on December 27th, signing a one-day contract so he can retire as a Senator, a front office position in town... Naturally, speculation was far more exciting than a simple hockey game.
However, the hockey game itself did eventually take place. The first period was a tale of two halves for the Senators. They started with some good possession, some offensive zone cycles, and looked every bit like they were ready to start the game. The Red Wings looked sleepy and sluggish. Ottawa got some luck early in the period when Chris Neil tried to chip the puck out of the zone, but Tomas Tatar had his stick on top of Neil's stick. Tatar's stick was flicked up by Neil's clearing attempt, hitting Neil in the face. It was called high-sticking, and the Sens went to the powerplay. Forty seconds into that powerplay, the Sens caught some more good luck when Mark Stone went 1-on-3 into the zone, and Kyle Quincey decided the best way to defend was to grab his arm from behind. The Wings announcers weren't happy, but it was a pretty easy penalty call in my opinion. On the extended 5-on-3, Kyle Turris fired home an Erik Karlsson pass from just above the hashmarks.
Detroit managed to kill the rest of the penalty, but Ottawa continued to look the better team for a couple more minutes. Unfortunately, as we've become all too used to this season, the Sens couldn't keep this up. A bit of time stuck in their zone led to a Neil penalty that reeked of make-up call. But this is the NHL, so I should be expecting it. Ottawa was able to kill the penalty, but their early-period momentum had been sapped. Alex Chiasson took an offensive zone holding penalty, which looked softer than the penalty to Quincey, but at least could have maybe been a penalty. Mid-way through the kill, Mark Borowiecki decided he wanted to go knee-on-knee against Justin Abdelkader at the blue line, but missed. Instead, he drove his laces into Abdelkader's knee, and I'm glad no injury occurred. The Wings broke in on the Sens sans Borocop, and very nearly got a goal. Craig Anderson was pushed over by the driving forward, but managed to keep his leg down enough to stop the follow-up chance. Eric Gryba then knocked the net off its moorings to negate the scoring chance with all of the subtlety of a bucking bronco. Luckily for Ottawa, the refs decided Boro's tripping penalty was punishment enough, and the Sens faced 31 seconds of 5-on-3 instead of 2:31. A couple of misses high by the Wings allowed the Sens to kill off those 31 seconds.
Unfortunately, all good things come to an end. The next sequence on the powerplay saw Henrik Zetterberg take a shot that Andy got a glove on. He felt it drop from the glove, and glanced behind him, worried about the puck trickling into the net. Instead, it bounced back out front where Gustav Nyquist could bury it. It was a tie game. Late in the first, Borowiecki made a great play, saving a goal by pinning Tomas Jurco's stick to the ice on what was an open net. Jurco wanted a slashing penalty, but replays showed that Jurco dropped his stick after it was clear he wasn't going to score. The period would end with the Sens' penalty kill brought to you by Craig Anderson finishing 1/3, and the shots 19-7 in favour of Detroit.
Let's face it, that second-half of the first period was awful. The Sens got a shot from David Legwand 10:00, and only got one more shot, at 18:24 by Clarke MacArthur. The highlight of that time was when my lentils tikka masala were ready. I was hoping for a much better second.
The second was, in a word, not. If you're already sick of reading, feel free to skip these next couple paragraphs. The period started off with Anderson taking a tripping penalty, served by Neil because he loves the penalty box so much. #Neilership. On the powerplay, Andy failed to handle a Tatar point shot, giving up a huge rebound to Riley Sheahan in the opposite circle. He made no mistake, rifling it home into an empty net. Curtis Lazar got his marking wrong, as he was covering the Sens defender in the middle of the ice, leaving Andy's left side completely undefended. I guess that's the hazard of having a 19-year-old on the penalty kill: sometimes he'll make mistakes.
The next major event of the period was a ridiculous embellishment call against Turris. He lost his balance, tried to keep moving forward, and eventually couldn't keep his feet under him. He received the only penalty on the play. When the Detroit announcers say there was no embellishment, you know it's a missed call. The refs seemed to realize it, because they gave Nyquist an interference penalty for lightly slashing Cody Ceci's stick soon after. It meant the Sens would only get 40 seconds of powerplay time, but they almost made it work. Patrick Wiercioch found Turris in front for a great save by Jimmy Howard. Shortly after, MacArthur was all alone in the crease, and failed to get any lift on the puck at all. It was very unfortunate for him - if he gets that much time and space 100 times, he probably scores on 98 of them.
It was the only break the Wings would need. On a loose puck in front of the Sens' net, Stephen Weiss would score his first NHL goal since October 14, 2013 (!!). Four minutes later, he flubbed home a rebound for his second goal of the game. In one game against the Sens, he equalled his entire goal output in 26 games of the 2013-14 season. The period ended with Ottawa looking like they were simply playing out the period, trying not to allow another goal. Also of note was earlier in the period when Neil flew in for a hit on a falling Wing, only to collide heavily with Zack Smith and stay down for a while;
unfortunately, he was uninjured in the play and could take another shift late in the period. In the second, the Sens were only outshot 12-7, but were outscored 3-0. They would need a big third period to win this game.
The third period started off well enough to keep it interesting. Karlsson snapped home a wrister from the slot just under three minutes in to cut the deficit to two. MacArthur would continue his forgettable game by taking an obvious hooking penalty, but the Sens actually looked like the better team down a man, with Mark Stone nearly pick-pocketing Niklas Kronwall in his own crease for a shorthanded goal. Not long after the penalty expired, Stone would ring one off the post. Suddenly, the Sens had life. A late penalty to Abdelkader gave the Sens a chance to tie it, but the powerplay looked flat. Inexplicably, Neil and Smith both spent time out on the powerplay. MacLean didn't pull his goalie for a 6-on-4 advantage, which proved to be smart when Darren Helm got a shorthanded breakaway the other way which Andy turned aside. The Sens pulled the goalie with a minute left, and Mike Hoffman snapped a shot through a Chris Neil screen into the net with 34 seconds left. It could be an interesting finish!
Of course, it wasn't. Karlsson for some reason decided to try a Hail Mary off the ensuing faceoff, which led to an icing call and the return of Anderson to the net. The Sens would ice the puck again after that faceoff. With only 20 seconds left, they did manage to gain the zone, and get Wiercioch a buzzer-beater, allowing Jimmy Howard one more time to make a great save. Sens fall 4-3, with the shots 43-26 in favour of Detroit.
Sens Hero: Craig Anderson
I think it's very telling that the goalies are either heroes or scapegoats in every game. Anderson finished with a .907 save percentage, .929 at even strength. It seemed that every rebound he let out ended up his net. He really could have used some help on defence. His second was shaky (by his standards) but he held the team in the game in the third.
Honourable Mention: Erik Karlsson
The captain finished with two very deserved points. Can you believe it was only his second multi-point game of the year? He also finished even on even-strength shot attempts, impressive when you look at the score.
Honourable Mention: Bobby Ryan
Poor guy was tasked with sparking every underperforming line tonight, while Chiasson was allowed to stay cushy on the top line. Late in the third, he looked like a man on fire, trying his hardest to get anything going from anywhere. After Karlsson, I'd say he was the most noticeable skater for the Sens in a third period they needed to dominate.
Sens Hero: Score effects
A healthy Wings' lead allowed the Sens to sneak back into a game at the end that they had no business being in.
Sens Zero: Jared Cowen
Cowen didn't look great tonight, and the stats back the eye-test up: he finished with 15% of the even-strength shot attempts. Any way you look at it, that's gross. It's hardly fair to scapegoat Cowen, since any night you allow 46 shots is awful for the whole team, but he was the worst of several poor defensive efforts.
Sens Zero: SCRAAMMMMBBBBBLLLLLLEEEES!
How many times was the puck just sitting there, and every Sens player nearby was tied up until a Wings player found it and did something with it? Weiss's first goal, and arguably his second goal were both results of lost puck battles.
Sens Killer: Stephen Weiss
Why did this guy have to have his comeback game against the Sens?
Game Killer: The Fox Sports back-corner camera
Seriously, it's kind of a cool view, but you can only show defensive-zone draws for at most a second. If the puck goes to the point and you can't get the puck and the net in the same shot, it's a bad angle.
Game Killer: Refereeing
By my count, there were five bad calls tonight. Some were terribly bad, like the Tatar high-stick and the Turris dive. Late in the second, Cody Ceci hacked out a guy's skates and there was no call, because I guess they'd hit their quote for the first forty minutes. When every call feels like a make-up call, it's a bad night.
Game Hero: My tikka masala
Sure, the sauce came from a jar, but it was still delicious. Definitely better than what the Sens served up tonight.