After losing game four of the Florida series last night ruining their chance at the sweep, the Senators didn’t want to make the same mistake twice. Going 3-0-0 against Tampa Bay so far, the Sens looked to finish them off. A win would give them both the sweep and a 1-1 split on their Florida trip.
The game started in a familiar fashion for the Senators. Ottawa, who had scored the first goal in 10 of their past 11 games, once again had the opening tally. It wasn’t such a familiar player scoring however as Sergei Gonchar got his first goal since mid-November. Jared Cowen and Colin Greening each picked up assists. But an assist didn’t seem to be enough for Greening, who increased the lead to two all by himself. Just a minute later Kyle Turris scored and just like that the Sens were up by three. The line shake up by Paul MacLean seemed to work as the Sens produced more first period goals than they have in a long time. Ben Bishop stopped all 8 shots he faced in his first ever period as an Ottawa Senator and the team went into the first intermission with a comfortable 3-0 lead.
The Sens would learn however that no matter how large, now lead is ever “comfortable”. Less than two minutes in former Senator Ryan Shannon would be the first to get a puck past new Senator Ben Bishop. And then Tim Wallace did the same. Just like that the lead was cut to one. Thankfully the Sens offense was far from done. A game like this is never complete with a goal from our leading Swedish defenseman. Erik Karlsson got an unassisted power play goal just past the half way mark of the period, making the sens PP unit 1 for 2 on the night. The Sens again went into intermission with a multi-goal lead, this time 4-2. Shots favoured Ottawa 21 to 17.
Frustration can lead to interesting outcomes, just ask Erik Karlsson. After a turnover in Sunday’s game against Florida he took a penalty for a violent slash on the opposing player. He didn’t get a suspension following the game, but he was fined. It wasn’t a lesson learned however as the frustration once again led him to do the exact same thing. All this lead to a Tampa power play that would bring them within one once again. Steven Stamkos fired one past Bishop to make it 4-3. Fortunately it didn’t cost them more than that. The sens quickly re-gained their lead with a power play goal of their own. Milan Michalek scored, picking up his second point of the night. He would then add two more, one even strength, and one short-handed to make for a very three-dimensional hat trick. It’s a bit less interesting when you learn two of the three goals were empty netters (Thank you, Guy Boucher) but nevertheless a hat trick is a hat trick. Sens woud win 7-3, Michalek leading in points with 4 (3-1) and Bishop making 25 saves in his Senators debut.
*** SenShot’s Three Stars ***
1st Star: Milan Michalek - Though his hat trick was two thirds empty netters, Milan Michalek gave the Senators needed goal security. He aslo picked up an assist giving him a four point night, and finished with a plus-4.
2nd Star: Colin Greening – Colin Greening picked up his first goal since January and also got an assist. He seemed to benefit form the line change more than anyone.
3rd Star: Filip Kuba - Often overlooked due to the spotlight on his defense partner Erik Karlsson, Kuba had a strong game today to help the Sens to this victory. He shutdown the likes of Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos and held himself to a plus-2, bringing him to plus-21 on the year. That puts him 7th among all defenseman in the league and first among Ottawa Senators players. He also showed he too could contribute offensively, picking up two assists.
In the end, the Senators got the win and the much needed two points. They had a great start but certainly had their flaws throughout the game. They should look at it as a positive though as many great things came out of this game. The Senators solidify their seventh place spot and increased the game between them and ninth place to 8 points. The team increased their third period goal total to 88, good for first in the league. Erik Karlsson scored the game winning goal to take sole possession of the lead in that category for Sens players with 5. Finally, Milan Michalek’s hat trick helped him pass the 30 goal mark for the first time in his career.
The Senators return home to take on the conference leading New York Rangers on Thursday. The Senators sent a strong message to the league that they are a worthy competitor the last time these two teams played (a 3-0 shutout win for Ottawa). For Sens fans, the score will be not as important as the two points they hope accompany it. The final stretch is upon us and nearly each game should be looked at as a “must win”. It is important to get the wins in any way they can. Sens are doing a good job keeping up their play and holding onto their playoff spot so far. They’ll need to keep it up down the final stretch, starting Thursday at Scotiabank Place. Until then, Sens fans!