Some of hockey’s greatest players from the past were in the house as the Ottawa Senators faced off against the Toronto Maple Leafs for the Hall of Fame Game. Stars such as Gordie Howe, Peter Stastny, Michel Goulet, Billy Smith, Brian Kilrea, Borje Salming, Vladislav Tretiak and Bryan Trottier were introduced prior to the game, as was the class of 2011, that will be inducted on Monday night. The 2011 class has a lot of Leaf connections as Doug Gilmour, Joe Nieuwendyk and Ed Belfour will join Mark Howe as inductees.
Everyone knows about the struggles of the Senators lately, so it is time to see if they can end the skid against their provincial rivals.
THE FIRST PERIOD
Craig Anderson passed the first test, stopping the first two shots and lasting past the 2:20 mark, which is more than he could accomplish the previous night in Buffalo. Joffrey Lupul (hooking) and Jesse Winchester (diving) took coincidental penalties but there were no real chances on the ensuing 4-on-4. In an illustration of how the streak has gone lately for Ottawa, Nick Foligno worked hard on the backcheck to take the puck away from Phillipe Dupuis, but promplty gave it away a second later by throwing it blindly backwards up the boards. Despite the flow of the game and very few whistles, the puck was not directed at the net very much. Through the first half of the period there were less than a handful of shots on goal (none by Ottawa). Just past the midway point, Zenon Konopka and Mike Brown squared off in a spirited fight where both threw punches (and connected on many) and didn’t care about defending. It would have to be called a draw as both kept on throwing until the linesmen stepped in to break it up. Bad defensive zone coverage by the Senators (where have you heard that before) almost cost them a goal as Sergei Gonchar and Jason Spezza played “hand grenade” with the puck, but got away with it this time around. Moments later, Tyler Bozak wired a wrist shot off the post and in with just under 3 minutes remaining in the period to give the Leafs the lead. Stephane Da Costa took a roughing penalty (insert joke here) with 8 seconds left, and Dave Steckel won the faceoff and Phil Kessel got a good scoring chance before the period ended, but Anderson made the save. The Leafs led the shot clock (7-4) as well as the scoreboard.
THE SECOND PERIOD
Ottawa killed of the carryover penalty, and then Jared Cowen put them right back to it with an interference penalty. The Senators killed this one as well, but it was again over 7 minutes before Ottawa registered their first shot on goal of the period. Erik Condra had the best scoring chance to of the game with a quick snapshot that led to a delayed hooking call on the Leafs. Before the Leafs could get control, Chris Phillips‘ point shot was deflected by Kaspars Daugavins to a wide open Sergei Gonchar, who had an open net and made no mistake in burying it to tie the game. Right after that, Brian Lee was sent off for hooking, on a play that coach Paul MacLean made the “diving” gesture in reference to how easily Mike Brown went down on the play. With Bozak off for holding, Dupuis caught Foligno with a high stick and was assesed a double minor and Ottawa went on an extended 5-on-3. Justice for Foligno as he was sent up the middle on a breakaway by Karlsson (and Anderson who quickly moved the puck up the ice off a Leaf clearing effort) and buried it past Scrivens. It was a 5-on-3 goal, so the power play continued, and carried over into the third. Ottawa controlled the second half of the period and actually outshot the Leafs 10-8 in the period.
THE THIRD PERIOD
After Anderson made a nice save on a shotrhanded chance by Phaneuf, Zack Smith went two on one with Karlsson, and kept the puck and wired it past Scrivens to give the Senators a rare 2 goal lead. Ottawa played with fire as Phillips took a pair of penalties four minutes apart to give the Leafs some momentum, but the much maligned Ottawa PK got the job done. A tough shift for Daugavins as twice he had the chance to clear the zone with only about 6 minutes left and twice the Leafs ended up with a scoring chance. A huge scramble around the Ottawa net had Anderson make a great save, but unable to freeze the puck, and Jesse Winchester gave the puck away and Lupul banked it in from behind the net to bring the Leafs within 1 with left. Anderson made a huge save in close on Grabovski with 2:10 left. With the Leafs net empty, Nick Foligno restored the two goal advantage after Winchester got the puck out this time, and Ottawa played out the last minute to get the win, and to add insult to injury Clarke MacArthur put the puck in his own net from the Ottawa end to make it 5-3 (Phillips originally got credit for the goal, but it was later changed to Michalek).
THE POST GAME SHOW
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SENSHOT’S THREE STARS
3. Zack Smith, OTT – 1 Goal, 1 Assist but 14% on faceoffs not good
2. Nick Foligno, OTT- 2 Goals and 8 hits
1. Craig Anderson, OTT – Nice recovery after being pulled the night before. 31 Saves on 33 shots, and an assist to boot!
Here are the Game Highlights from NHL.com
What I Saw
Filip Kuba has been much maligned in his two seasons in Ottawa, and rightly so. However, this season he has been a steady force on the Senators blue line in a pairing with Erik Karlsson. He is on pace for 33 points and hasn’t been bad in his own end.
Anderson had the type of game fans expected from him more often this season. He was solid, made the saves he should make and some he probably shouldn’t. It is ok to allow 2 when your team gets 3, and credit to him for keeping the Senators close while they were finding their legs. He is the reason the Senators had a chance in this one.
They did this one on the backs of the “secondary” scoring. Smith, Foligno and the lunchbucket brigade earned this one, while Jason Spezza, Milan Michalek and Daniel Alfredsson were largely invisible. Good for the secondary guys, not so good for the Senators chances. Games like this won’t happen often, so enjoy this one while it lasts. As Spezza goes, so will the Senators.
The Senators are heading west, with a stop in Calgary on Tuesday night to face the equally struggling Flames. Get your rest beforehand, because the next three games are late starts.
Thanks for reading and as always, comments are welcomed.
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