After dropping the first contest between the clubs 2-1 in a game that by all rights Ottawa should have won, and then taking the Caps to OT last week before Erik Karlsson‘s blown tire allowed Washington to score and take the extra point, Ottawa tried to make the third time the charm on home ice in a rare Wednesday night tilt at SBP. With the fresh news that Filip Kuba is on the shelf for the next month or so, it is up to both David Rundblad and Brian Lee to show that they deserve to stay in the lineup with the imminent return of Matt Carkner.
Could the Senators finally solve one of the most disappointing teams in the early NHL season and firmly solidify their 8th place positioning?
THE FIRST PERIOD
It was a slow start to the game as neither team got much in the way of sustained offensive zone pressure. Jesse Winchester held his own in a scrap with Troy Brouwer, as it was just a wrestling match but credit both combatants with trying to get their teams some spark over six minutes in. While on the power play, Milan Michalek had the Senators best chance when he beat Thomas Vokoun wide but slid the puck just past the post, but the puck came the other way and Jason Chimera carried it up the wing the other way. At full speed Chimera beat Craig Anderson (who was cutting down the angle) wide and the Ottawa goalie took his feet out from under him. At the same time, Sergei Gonchar was cross checking the other Washington forward in the slot. Referees called both incidents penalties and Ottawa was forced to kill a 1:48 two man Capitals advantage. Alex Ovechkin and co. had their chances, but Anderson stood tall as did Chris Phillips and Zack Smith who excelled on the PK, and Washington was held off the board. Ottawa gained some momentum off the successful kill, and for a time the line of Alfredsson, Spezza and Michalek was reunited. Ovechkin was flying as the Caps outshot the Sens 15-5 (with the extended 5-on-3) but the game remained scoreless through 20 minutes.
THE SECOND PERIOD
Washington got on the board just over 2 minutes into the second as Jeff Halpern pounced on a rebound from Anderson and put it into the yawning cage. Some controvertial officiating as after Ovechkin was hit with a pretty solid Chris Neil hit along the boards, Oveckin “discreetly” pitchforked Neil in the lower abdominal area. Neil, appropriately fell to his knees in obvious discomfort. Somehow, the referees both missed the spear to the “gonads” but saw fit to whistle Neil for diving. Regardless, the Senators killed the penalty off and Ovechkin became public enemy #1, at least for a while. Neil came back minutes later, and had a game-changing shift. He and his 4th line mates hemmed the Ovechkin line in their own end and laid a physical beating on the Caps. Cue the line change and Erik Condra outmuscled a weary John Erskine to get the rebound of Erik Karlsson‘s shot and tucked it home to tie the game at one, with his 4th of the season. Ottawa was given a 55 second two man advantage but couldn’t beat Vokoun or the shot blockers. Just after the second penalty expired, Nick Foligno made a pretty play outwaiting all Capitals and tucking in a puck from below the goal line to give the Senators their first lead of the game. Washington made an attempt to even the score in the last minute of the period, but Anderson again closed the door to send the teams to the room with Ottawa ahead by 1.
THE THIRD PERIOD
As the middle of the period approached, Oveckin was tripped by Karlsson, creating a Washington power play. This time the Caps were able to capitalize as Nicklas Backstrom sent a wrist shot top shelf to even the game up again. Ovechkin put the Caps in front when he circled in the offensive zone, put the brakes on and lost his check, turned back toward the net and a fake slapshot followed by a quick wrister beat Anderson. Before the Ovi goal was announced, Troy Brouwer added to the lead to give the Caps the biggest margin of the game. Alexander Semin’s poor hooking penalty was quicly capitalized on as Michalek buried his 17th of the season 5 seconds into the penalty to bring some life back into the arena. Washington opened the door again as Joel Ward took a slashing penalty (thanks to some quaint acting from Winchester). Ottawa came close but couldn’t beat Vokoun, and John Carlson‘s empty netter sealed the deal for the Capitals, capping a 4 goal third period.
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SENSHOT’S THREE STARS
3. Alex Ovechkin (WAS) – 1G, was flying all night and 7 shots on goal. A burr under the Senators’ saddle
2. Nick Foligno (OTT) – 1G, a highlight reel effort and a gritty game all around
1. John Carlson (WAS) - 1 G, 2 A and playing over 27 minutes in his 2nd 3-pt game of the week
Here are the game highlights from NHL.com
WHAT I SAW
Early on the Senators looked to get the Karlsson-Cowen pairing out against the Alex Ovechkin line because Karlsson did such a good job on him in the first game. In the first 6 minutes, Ovechkin made him look bad on two separate occasions. Karlsson recovered nicely for the most part but then got caught chasing Ovechkin for the penalty and then again chasing and taking himself out of position on the Capitals’ third goal.
The Senators top 6 continues to be a revolving door as MacLean looks for two solid lines. One option he didn’t try was putting Chris Neil in the mix. At this point, Neil would be a better option than Bobby Butler and/or Nikita Filatov. Spezza needs someone on his line with experience if not pure offensive ability. Perhaps giving him either Michalek or Alfredsson with Greening and moving Neil to the wing with Foligno and Michalek/Alfredsson would provide more balance as Spezza is lost right now. Even better would be the return of Peter Regin to centre the second line allowing Foligno to move back to the wing.
Interesting to see Alfredsson on the point for the second power play unit, replacing Filip Kuba.
I had Anderson as the first star through 40 minutes, but a couple of questionable goals in the third dropped him off that list. I will have more on Anderson in a Thursday post.
Ovechkin was soundly boooed every time he touched the puck after his incident with Neil. He then drew a penalty for tripping on Karlsson and was the best player on the ice after that play. It seemed to energize him and get his game back in shape, at least for one night.
The Senators missed a chance to solidify a playoff position, meaning they would have been in 8th place (or higher) with a win, and even if the teams behind them with games in hand won those game, couldn’t catch Ottawa. However, this loss brings the pack back into play and the scratching and clawing will continue in earnest.
Thanks for reading and as always, comments are welcomed.
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