The Ottawa Senators hosted the New York Islanders Tuesday night at Scotiabank Place. This was the fourth and final meeting of the season between the two lowest ranked teams in the Eastern Conference. The starting goaltenders were Nathan Lawson for the Islanders, and Brian Elliot, coming off his first win since Boxing Day on Saturday, for the Senators.
The game started off much as you would expect from the two lowest Eastern Conference teams. It was tentative, with the Islanders carrying most of the play early on due to the benefit of 2 power plays with Zack Smith taking both penalties. The Islanders managed 4 shots on the two advantages, but were unable to break the ice. The Senators earned a power play of their own and wasted no time, as Spezza won the ensuing draw, Michalek threw it on the net and Lawson kicked out a fat rebound that Bobby Bulter cashed in for his second career goal. Elliott made a key save on Michael Grabner shortly thereafter to maintain the Senators one goal advantage heading into the first intermission.
The second period was fairly sloppy, and there was little of circumstance until near the 8 minute mark of the period, when Chris Neil was hit by teammate Chris Kelly‘s shot in the rib area and went down behind the Islanders’ net. The Islanders then carried it up the ice and Blake Comeau scored to tie the score with Neil still on his knees 200 feet away, and in obvious discomfort. Ottawa got into a jam just past the midway point as Sergei Gonchar left the game with a lower body injury. This was important becasue Chris Campoli has already left the game in the first period, and Gonchar’s departure left the Senators with only 4 defensemen for almost half a game to play. Alex Kovalev was denied on an open net by defenseman Andrew MacDonald, who dove to get a piece of the puck at the side of the net, which was the best save of the night to that point. A couple of minutes later, Ottawa regained the lead on the power play when the suddenly hot Bobby Butler found a wide open Ryan Shannon in the slot, who made no mistake and wired a slap shot past Lawson. The Senators headed to the locker room in the same situation they did at the end of the first, ahead by one, 2-1.
Early in the third period, with the Senators on the power play, Erik Karlsson turned the puck over to Michael Grabner, who broke in on Elliott. Elliott stood his ground, but in the process of making the save ended up behind the goal line and Grabner coralled the rebound and completed a wraparound past a sprawling Jason Spezza to tie the game at 2. About 4 minutes later, Josh Bailey of the Islanders scored a goal that was almost identical to Shannon’s goal earlier in the game. Baily was left wide open in the slot, and made no mistake to give the Islanders a 3-2 lead. Elliott made a spectacular save off Blake Comeau with just under 6 minutes remaining to keep the Senators within one. His save was rewarded, as Senators turned around and seconds later evened the score as Erik Condra found Karlsson in the slot who fired a shot top corner past Lawson. It was Condra’s first NHL point in his first NHL game. Elliott made on late save on John Tavares to keep the score tied going into extra time.
Overtime could solve nothing, so we fast forward to the shootout. Alex Kovalev scored Ottawa’s first shootout goal of the season, but Elliott couldn’t stop Rob Schremp or Frans Nielson. The Islanders didn’t need their third shooter to defeat the Senators 2-1 in the shootout and 4-3 in the game.
THE UP SIDE
Other than the Grabner goal that saw Brian Elliott out of his element, he made a number of key saves that either kept the Senators in the lead or gave them a chance to come back.
Bobby Butler continued to look good in his top line role, and has at least found a temporary role riding shotgun with Jason Spezza.
Erik Condra showed well in his debut with the Senators. His performance showed that with some seasoning he may be a fixture in the club’s bottom 6 in the near future.
THE DOWN SIDE
The four defenseman left standing after the halfway point of the game looked tired as the game wore on, and fatigue set in. They were also forced into situations they are unfamiliar with, which contributed to the collapse late in the game.
Watch the game highlights courtesy of NHL.com.
THE THREE STARS
3rd Star – Nate Lawson, G – NYI: Recorded his first NHL win, stopping 28 of 31 shots and 2 of 3 in the shootout.
2nd Star – Bobby Butler, RW- OTT: Second straight multi-point game, showed vision and hands
1st Star – Michael Grabner, LW- NYI: The hottest player in the league right now showed why with a 2 point effort, including a second effort shorthanded goal that displayed not only speed but quickness in close.
Through injury and trade, the Ottawa Senators might soon look like the Binghampton Senators. The loss Tuesday put the Senators five points behind the Islanders for last in the conference, and pretty much guarantees the club will have a top-3 pick in the draft. Its going to be hard to watch the next two months, but will give a good picture of how well the system has indeed been stocked in the Bryan Murray era.