The Warm Up
With the Ottawa Senators visiting their Capital Cousin Washington Capitals, much of the fear was that Ottawa would get blown out. The Hockey Night In Canada crew during the pre-game voiced their concern that Ottawa might have trouble containing Alex Ovechkin and the explosive Caps offense. Despite the fact that they haven’t been overwhelming in their play so far this season, they are a perfect 3-0 against some top level teams.
Alex Auld got his first start of the season, spelling Craig Anderson who has been less than spectacular in his four games, with a goals against average of over 5, and a save percentage below my IQ.
Lineup changes from Thursday nights loss include the departure of Bobby Butler (groin) and Brian Lee, while Zenon Konopka and Erik Condra go back in.
The First Period
The game opened up with the Senators skating with the Caps, and Chris Neil continuing his strong play (he might be the best forward through 4 games) with a hit on Matt Hendricks. Ottawa got a fortunate call when Karl Alzner got called for boarding on Zenon Konopka. Didn’t really look like a penalty to me, but the Sens need a break. Jason Spezza appeared to open the scoring, but was waved off due to a pileup in the crease. So the questionable calls are even early on. Daniel Alfredsson just missed from a bad angle as the penalty expired and the league’s best power play continued to create chances. Another very questionable call, this time on Neil, gave the Caps their first power play of the game, and as good as the Sens PP has been, their PK has been just as bad. The Caps made their opportunity count as Nick Backstrom was left wide open on the backside and put it in the open cage and Washington took the lead 1-0. Marcus Johanssen put the Caps up by 2 as he beats Auld clean on a wraparound after Erik Karlsson did a farily nice job of not giving him a lane to the net. Neil got his second ticky-tack call of the period. They Sens killed that one off, and Peter Regin scored with 25 seconds left to create some optimism. It was a nice play by David Rundblad to generate the opportunity and the rookie was rewarded with his first NHL point. It was only the second 1st period goal of the season for the Senators. They have been outscored 9-2 this season in period one.
The Second Period
Sergei Gonchar was absent from the Sens bench after blocking a shot in the first period. Filip Kuba took a tripping penalty on Jason Chimera, but the Senators killled it off on an especially strong kill by the tandem of Phillips and Cowen. As the midway point of the period neared, Paul MacLean finally decided to put his horses on to pull the wagon at the same time, and the trio of Spezza, Alfredsson and Milan Michalek created some good scoring chances. The Senators were the better team on the ice for much of the second period, as they took a majority of the play to the Capitals. However the period ended the same way it started, with Washington leading 2-1. Ottawa led 12-4 in shots on goal, and gained momentum heading into the third.
The Third Period
Hendricks felled Colin Greening early on in the period with what looked like a pure headshot, but no call was made on the play. That is the kind of play that I thought the NHL was trying to get rid of. Auld made a great save on a Johansson shot from the slot, and the Senators turned it around and Nick Foligno had a good scoring chance of his own. With just over 12 minutes left, Michalek took advantage of a Caps’ miscommunication and went on a 100 foot breakaway, but a hustling John Carlson bothered him just enough to take his focus off the play and Tomas Vokoun made the save. The trio of Foligno, Neil and Regin also played well in the third, cycling in the offensive zone and creating chances almost every time they were out. Following a Spezza turnover, Auld stoned Ovechkin, who had just undressed Kuba and got a quick release off. Vokoun made a spectacular save after Spezza’s behind the back pass found a wide open Alfredsson who shot at what he thought was an open net. With the goalie out for an extra attacker, Alfredsson had three whacks at it in the crease area, but with about 11 bodies in the blue paint he couldn’t slip it through. A time-out with 29 seconds left, and the right 6 guys on the ice, a last second drive by Karlsson was turned away by Vokoun for a 2-1 Washington.
Check out the Game Highlights.
SENSHOT’S THREE STARS
3. Erik Karlsson, OTT
2. Alex Auld, OTT
1. Tomas Vokoun, WAS
This was a good effort by the Senators group as a whole. The five defensemen who saw elevated minutes after the departure of Gonchar had their foibles, but got the job done. Basically you can boil it down to a couple of questionable calls in the first period:1) Calling the Spezza goal back with minimal contact between Michalek and Vokoun and 2) a rather weak penalty call on Chris Neil that resulted in the opening goal. I hate to put the blame on the officials, but after the early penalty to Alzner (which was also questionable) the Senators were handed 3 penalties and the Caps none. They also missed the call on the (pretty obvious) headshot to Greening.
The Senators really shortened their bench up front over the second half of the game as Spezza, Michalek and Alfredsson all played over 18 minutes, while players like Mika Zibanejad, Colin Greening and Zenon Konopka all played under 12.
Karlsson led all skaters by playing over 27 minutes in what was his best defensive game in (maybe ever) some time. He was instrumental in shutting down Alex Ovechkin for much of the night. The Great 8 was largely kept to the outside and out of dangerous scoring areas.
Auld played well, except for the winning goal. A wraparound should never go in on an NHL goalie, and Auld was simply surprised by the play and was slow in reacting. He was very good the rest of the way and may have earned the start in the next game.
Speaking of which, next up for the Senators is a flight home to face the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday night.
**Don’t forget to buy your Tickets for SenShot’s Alfie Night in Ottawa on November 11th, 2011. Click here for more details**
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