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Game Recap: PHI @ OTT: The Spezza Show

The Senators hosted the Philadelphia Flyers Tuesday night with implications for both teams on the line.  For the Flyers, they are in a battle with the Washington Capitals for first overall, and home ice advantage in the Eastern Conference playoffs.  Ottawa is in the unfortunate positioning of wanting to win, but some fans hoping for them to lose to secure a better draft pick in June.  Craig Anderson started in the Ottawa cage against Sergei Bobrovsky.

Ottawa came out with some jump, forcing Bobrovsky to make a couple of saves in the first minute.  Zack Smith fired a snapshot that Bobrovsky just managed to get a toe on.  An Erik Condra hooking penalty gave the Flyers and early power play, which would be a trend for this game.  Mike Richards blocked teammate Kimmo Timonen‘s point shot, and whaked in the puck for a 1-0 Philly lead.  Moments later, Smih was elbowed in the head by Ben Holmstrom, after which Chris Neil took Holmstom to task, but ended up in the box for 17 minutes with the instigator. Holmstom went unpunished for the elbow.  The Flyers didn’t do much on the ensuing power play, and Jason Spezza had the best opportunity.  Nick Foligno was given a questionable penalty for tripping Andrej Meszaros, who then ended the man advantage with a questionable penalty of his own,  After the 4 on 4 solved nothing, Foligno was the beneficiary of a defelcted Spezza shot, which bounced right to Foligno who put it away to tie the game at 1 through 1.

The second period was as fast paced as the first, but was also victim of more curious penalty calls, both ways.  Anderson made a fantastic save off Nikolai Zherdev point blank for his best save of the night.  On the fourth power play of the period, Zherdev passed from behind the net to a wide open Richards in the slot, who wired a shot past a helpless Anderson to give the Flyers a 2-1 lead with just over 4 minutes left in the period.  Ottawa was awarded another power play, and Spezza found Ryan Shannon on the blue line, whose wrist shot found the top corner.  Bobrovsky had no chance, as all he could see was “71″ on the back of Foligno who had himself firmly planted at the top of the crease.  Not happy going into the inermission tied at two,  Smith sent Bobby Butler on a breakaway.  Butler made Bobrovsky open up, and Butler went five hole to give the Senators a lead with 14 seconds left in the period.

The Senators had an early power play in the 3rd, but were unable to capitalize with Meszaros in the box.  However, just after 8 minutes into the period, Daniel Carcillo went off for holding.  Spezza made him pay, as he blasted his 20th goal of the season past Bobrovsky.  Anderson made another stellar save off Jeff Carter‘s one-timer, and Milan Michalek sealed the deal with an empty netter, for a 5-2 victory.

CHECK OUT THE GAME HIGHLIGHTS FROM NHL.COM

THE UP SIDE

A total team effort, but the way was led by Jason Spezza.

Special teams were worked to the bone, with 11 power plays.  Ottawa scored 3 power play goals on 5 opportunities

THE DOWN SIDE

Stephane Da Costa played only 6 minutes, and wasn’t very effective.  had a night he would like  to forget, as he was directly responsible for two Leafs goals.

Penalty Killing was a rare negative factor as they allowed 2 Flyers goals on the PK.

*  *  *

MY THREE STARS

3rd Star – Bobby Butler, OTT – A highlight reel goal and an assist, breaks out of an 11 game goal scoring slump.

2nd Star – Mike Richards, PHI – A pair of goals in a losing effort, he is the only reason the Flyers were close for so long, as he was the only one who came to play.

1st Star – Jason Spezza, OTT - 1 goal, 3 assists, 7 shots on goal and a dominant force at both ends of the ice.

FINAL THOUGHT

The 5-2 victory means the Senators jump past the Florida Panthers and into a 13th place tie with the New York Islanders.  Ottawa has more wins, but the Isles have a game in hand.  Washinton’s win over Toronto means the Flyers are bumped to second, and in danger of being passed by Pittsburgh for first in their division.  Philadelphia was my preseason favorite to win the Cup, but if this is the effort they are going to put in, they are likely to be first round fodder.  Chris Pronger had better be healthy for their sake, if they are going to make any kind of impact in the playoffs.

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