The Senators visit to Pittsburgh did not go as planned for Craig Anderson and the Senators, so it was back home for a one game stand before heading back out on the road for three. The opponent was the Carolina Hurricanes, who have struggled mightily this season. This was the kind of game the Senators need to win outright, and not give up extra points, if they want to keep in the playoff race.
THE FIRST PERIOD
The Senators got on the board in the first minute when Sergei Gonchar hit a streaking Jason Spezza at full speed through the neutral zone. Spezza knifed through the Hurricanes’ D and deked Cam Ward out of his jockstrap for his first goal in 11 games. Kaspars Daugavins made a great defensive play, sprawling to take away a scoring chance on a two on two when the Latvian was covering for a pinching Erik Karlsson. The Senators held the lead until the 15:00 mark when Patrick Dwyer‘s quick-rising snap shot beat Anderson over the shoulder to tie the game at 1. Colin Greening didn’t like the way he was being treated in front of the net, and dropped the gloves with the much more experienced pugilist Derek Joslin. Greening held his own and ended up on top when the pair fell to the ice. Spezza notched his second of the period and 200th career goal on the PP with just under 2 minutes left in the period on a nice cross-ice pass from Gonchar. Before the period ended, Jeff Skinner went on a chopping rampage, making about half a dozen slashes to the legs of various Senators before finally being whistled for slashing. The Senators couldn’t score on the abbreviated power play so the penalty carried over to the 2nd period.
THE SECOND PERIOD
This frame was really uneventful for the first half, but then it started to open up and there were multiple odd man rushes. Jared Cowen saved Rundblad’s bacon after a poor pinch created a 2-on-1. Cowen broke up the pass and shortly thereafter Nikita Filatov and Colin Greening went in two on 1, but the Russian couldn’t complete the play. Back the other way, Anderson robbed Skinner with a great glove save. With Spezza off for high sticking, Zack Smith outmuscled and outhustled a Hurricanes defender to get in alone on Ward, but the Carolina tender was up to the task. With 14 seconds left, David Rundblad‘s wrister from the point ping-ponged off a couple of legs and past Ward for his first career goal, and give the Senators a 3-1 lead heading into the third.
THE THIRD PERIOD
With Spezza off for another penatly, Smith got away with one when he cross-checked Jussi Jokinen on the doorstep, but somehow did not get called for it. Tuomo Ruutu had a glorious chance to bring the Canes closer when everyone on the ice was fooled behind the net, expecting it to come out on one side but boucned to the other. Ruutu had an open net to stuff it in, but Eric Condra got his stick on Ruutu’s and the puck went off the post. With Eric Staal off for tripping, Milan Michalek was sent in alone by Karlsson, but he rang the shot off the post. Staal, who has been struggling this season, got the Canes back within one when he was alone at the side of the crease for a rebound that Anderson had no chance to save. Zack Smith‘s individual effort with under 8 minutes left gave the Senators an insurance goal, which it turned out they would need as Alex Ponikarovsky got that one back with a power play goal. The last three minutes were about holding on, and they had to kill a Smith penalty late in the game to do it. They did hold on, and escaped with a 4-3 victory.
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SENSHOT’S THREE STARS
3. Zack Smith - 1G, set a physical tone and great penalty killing
2. Erik Karlsson – 2A and stellar defensive play, even added some physicality to his defensive game
1. Jason Spezza – 2G, a team leading 4 shots and 53% on the draw
Here are the game highlights from NHL.com
WHAT I SAW
Nick Foligno will be a work in progress at centre. He is good on the cycle game, but lacks the pure playmaking ability of someone who normally plays the position, espicially on the 2nd line. Peter Regin will hopefully be back soon.
Congratulations to Rundblad on his first career goal. However, the young Swede still looks uncomfortable when carrying the puck and has not transitioned as quick as I think he and the Senators organization expected or hoped.
Great job done by the Senators penalty killing unit as they went 7-for-8 on the PK. Hats off to Condra, Daugavins, Smith and Jesse Winchester, who did the bulk of the PK duties, along with Cowen, Chris Phillips, Filip Kuba and Gonchar. They were effective but a huge tip of the hat to Anderson, who made 16 saves on the 17 PP shots the Canes fired at him.
It was a quick home stop, and the Senators head to Winnipeg for their first meeting with the new Jets in the MTS Centre, before heading to Dallas to face the Stars and capping the trip with a visit to Washington and new head coach Dale Hunter.
Thanks for reading and as always, comments are welcomed.
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