The Ottawa Senators travelled to Raleigh, NC, a place that hasn’t been kind to the Senators, for a Tuesday night matchup. The Hurricanes enter the game in 9th place in the East, trailing Buffalo by 3 points. Curtis McElhinny was in the net for his third straight start, with Craig Anderson not quite ready to go. Of course, Cam Ward was manning the Hurricanes crease. Carolina was desperate to come out of this one with a win for the seventh straight time at home against the Senators, while Ottawa would like nothing more than to play the spoiler yet again, having seemingly derailed New Jersey‘s slim playoff hopes in the last week.
The first period was action packed, both in terms of goals an penalties. Each team killed off an early penalty, and the best chance early on was a Nick Foligno chance while the clubs were 4-on-4, but he was turned away by Ward. Ottawa did get on the board first as Jason Spezza broke in, and was stopped, but the puck was kicked out to the low slot by Ward’s pad, right where a hard-charging Colin Greening was headed. Greening put the puck in the wide open cage for a 1-0 Sens lead, just under 8 minutes in. After almost 6 minutes of end to end action, Marek Svatos doubled the Ottawa lead when he made a deke in front of Ward and slipped it past him for the Slovak’s first goal and point as a Senator. Carolina wasted little time in cutting the lead to one, and then evening up the score within a minute as Tuomo Ruutu and Chad Larose both beat McElhinney. The Ottawa netminder would have liked to have both of those goals back, but to no avail and the game was tied. Another round of penalties saw the period end, still tied at 2 but Ottawa holding a 4-on3 advantage.
The Senators couldn’t score on the opening power plays, and this period saw Ottawa take most of the play to the Canes, but Ward stood tall as he faced a barrage of shots. Both teams had power play chances, but were unable to get the lead. With just under 2 minutes left in the frame, it was Larose who broke the deadlock as he broke in 3-on-2 and fired a well placed shot past McElhinney, with just under 2 minutes left. That is how the period ended, and despite outshooting Carolina by a 29-18 margin in the game, Ottawa trailed by one after 40 minutes.
The third period saw Carolina extend the lead to 4-2 after a nice passing play between Eric Cole, Eric Staal and Cory Stillman led to Stillman’s relatively easy goal. McElhinney made a key save after Staal blocked Spezza’s shot and broke in on a clear breakaway, but couldn’t find the back of the net. Then it was Ward’s turn, as he stood tall on a Nick Foligno shot after a nice setup from Spezza. Ward could do nothing as Erik Karlsson was found wide open at the side of the net by Spezza, who threaded the needle to give Karlsson a simple tap-in to narrow the lead and give Ottawa some hope. However, they could not complete the comeback and fell 4-3 to the Hurricanes.
The duo of Chris Phillips and Brian Lee did their job, as they held the top line in check. The only offense the trio of Staal-Cole-Stillman produced was when they were not matched up with Phillips & Lee.
The Senators dominated the faceoff circle, as all four centres were over 50%, led by Zack Smith‘s 69%.
Patrick Weircioch strggled in his NHL debut, and was on the ice for 3 Carolina goals. He finished the game with 9:23 of ice time and was -2.
Curtis McElhinney looked shaky during the first period letdown after being staked to a two goal lead. He looked out of position on the first goal, and was down very early on the second goal. Larose made a nice shot, but McElhinney gave him the top of the net.
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MY THREE STARS
3rd Star – Jason Spezza, OTT – The offensive catalyst is carrying the load. Two assists and over 50% faceoffs again.
2nd Star- Chad Larose, CAR – A pair of goals, both with nice accurate shots to beat McElhinney.
3rd Star – Cam Ward, CAR – The All-Star made 36 saves, including all 18 in the second period when the game was tied and still very much in doubt.
Whoever gets the 8th playoff spot (most likely Buffalo or Carolina) is going to have a legitimate shot at beating the top seed in the East. As we in Ottawa know all too well, in a 7 game series, goaltending means so much. At this point I would put my money on Ryan Miller and Cam Ward over Bobrovsky or Varlamov (or Neuvirth) from Philadelphia and Washington respectively. Washington and Philly might have the firepower, but the masked will be the key.
Thanks for reading and as always, comments are welcomed.
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