Uninspired Senators lose 4-3 to Avalanche

The final ten minutes of the game made it a lot closer, but the Ottawa Senators lacked much intensity for most of the game, and the Colorado Avalanche took advantage to earn a 4-3 victory. The frustrating part was that the Avalanche didn't play very well, either; they only had 20 shots on the night, little in terms of scoring chances, and benefited from some poor defensive zone play by Sens blueliners and some weak goaltending from Pascal Leclaire. The two points were there for the taking if Ottawa started well, but they Senators didn't bring a strong effort until they were down 4-1 late in the third period. Despite some good chances at the end of the game, it was too late for the comeback to come to fruition.

Sens zeroes: Milan Michalek, Pascal Leclaire
Michalek was quiet tonight. Very quiet. In fact, he was barely noticeable, despite having five hits in the game. Perhaps the only time I really noticed him was the giveaway he had on the first Avalanche goal, where he put the puck right into the slot for Kyle Quincey to tee up and hammer home. Michalek had no shots on net, but his lacking tonight was particularly demonstrated by a notable fact: With 90 seconds left and the goalie pulled, for an offensive-zone faceoff, Michalek wasn't on the ice, while Shannon, Kovalev, Regin, Mike Fisher, Filip Kuba, and Chris Campoli all were. And for a neutral zone faceoff right afterwards, in which the Senators lined up for a set play Michalek usually playes the pivotal role in, he was left off the ice and Shannon was standing in for him.

The Senators won last game thanks to Leclaire, and lost tonight in large part due to his weak play. He allowed four goals on 20 shots (although it was four on the first 17 shots), and he only had an excuse on the first one (that was on Michalek). The worst was likely the early second-period Matt Duchene goal, a weak five-hole goal that combined with the late first-period Chris Durno goal to take any wind out of Ottawa's sails.

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Sens heroes: Ryan Shannon, Alex Kovalev
Again tonight, Shannon was Ottawa's best player, and it showed on the stats sheet: He led the Senators with two goals on the night, and now has four goals in three games. His speed is now becoming the factor it was last season, and he's got the trust of his coach. If Shannon can keep this up, you can be sure he'll get a solid contract for next season.

I'm not sure if people will agree with me, but I thought Kovalev was one of few Senators to bring solid play through the better part of the game. His puck possession was at its best, he was setting guys up regularly--notably a sweet pass to Shannon on Ottawa's third goal. He had a team-high four shots, but 11 shots directed at the net (4S, 5A/B, 2MS), and his line, with Shannon and Peter Regin, were all an impressive +2 in a 4-3 loss.

Sens killers: Craig Anderson, Ryan O'Reilly
Most of Ottawa's shots were simple, straight-on, low-percentage shots through the first two periods, but Anderson came up big in the last minute of the game to really stymie the Senators' comeback. He stopped 27 of 30 shots on the night, and vastly outplayed his opponent at the other end of the ice.

O'Reilly had his one goal, but I thought his line with Brandon Yip and Darcy Tucker made the Senators look pretty weak a few times in the game. Tucker's not as effective as he used to be, but that line works well together and really punished the Senators defencemen.

Solid returns: Nick Foligno
In his first game back from injury, Foligno picked up where he left off. Not quite hero-worthy, but still a very solid effort for one of the guys who'll have to give the Senators some offence while Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson are out. At the time of writing, he's still got credit for a goal, but it sounds like that may be re-directed to Matt Carkner; either way, Foligno was sitting in front of the net like he had to, and that's why the puck went in.

Honourable mentions: Shean Donovan, Chris Kelly, Jonathan Cheechoo
Donovan's got to get credit for his bout with Cody McLeod in the second period, a statement made that blatantly snowing Leclaire in the face isn't going to be let go. Kelly had a solid game, with some decent offensive shifts (an assist in there) and plenty of good defensive play. And Cheechoo was strong again, with some pretty good moves in the offensive zone that just didn't work out.

Dishonourable mentions: Jarkko Ruutu, Alex Picard
I just wasn't seeing the passion from Ruutu tonight. He was apparently credited with two shots and three hits, but whenever I saw him he was slowing down a Senators rush and making an ineffective dump into the corner.

I was going to give Picard a straight-up Sens zero, but I don't think his game was bad enough to warrant it. Terrible d-zone play on the second Colorado goal between himself and Carkner, and a tough play off a bad pass for Colorado's fourth, but Picard wasn't, in my opinion, as bad as people are saying on the post-game show. Still, a couple costly mistakes and his -3 rating means that Erik Karlsson's got a good chance of dressing tomorrow against the New York Islanders.

Standing on guard: Mike Fisher
I just wanted to note that, during the national anthems, Fisher was the lone player in the starting lineups to stay on his spot through the entire Oh Canada--even waiting through that very long "theeeeeeeee" that Lyndon Slewidge always holds to end it. He might not have made the Olympic team, but he's certainly a good fit to play for Canada.

Game highlights:

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