Every once in a while, you need to win a game or two that you have no business winning if you want to be successful. Well, that is exactly what happened on Tuesday night for the Ottawa Senators, playing without their best offensive player, Jason Spezza who is out with an upper body injury. Badly outplayed for the first 37 minutes of the game, the Senators found themselves down 2-0 and it could have been worse if not for the stellar play of Craig Anderson in the Ottawa net. Then the Senators’ 4th line took over and gave their club some momentum heading into the third, where Ottawa tied the score and then won it with a late power play goal for the come from behind 3-2 win.
Troy Brouwer opened the scoring driving the net and putting one past Anderson on a nice feed from Wojtek Wolski on a 2 on 1 after Erik Karlsson looked lost at the offensive blue line. Four minutes later, Jay Beagle threw one at the net and the puck went off Matt Hendricks past Anderson for the 2-0 lead.
Ottawa was badly outplayed in the 2nd period, but Anderson refused to allow the 3-0 goal and kept his team in the game. The low point came midway through the period when the Senators were pinned in their own end for what seemed like an eternity but was probably only 2 minutes. Either way, it was long enough for the “faithful” in attendance to begin raining Boooos on the team. Coach MacLean started shuffling lines trying to find a combination that worked. One player that was working was Mika Zibanejad, who was the only forward who seemed to have any jump at all so far. Lo and behold, Zibanejad cued the Senators comeback, starting the rush that was eventually finished by Jim O’Brien to bring the Senators back within one, despite being outshot 9-6, and being drastically outplayed in the frame.
A quick backhand off a faceoff from Milan Michalek caught Michal Neuvirth by surprise and went in far post to even the score early in the third, and Ottawa started taking the play to Washington. A big Anderson glove save off Jason Chimera set the stage for the heroics of Sergei Gonchar. With Joel Ward off for high-sticking, Karlsson set up Gonchar’s one-timer from the middle of the ice that went off Hendricks and past Neuvirth. Protecting the one goal lead, Anderson made huge saves off Mike Ribeiro all alone after the Senators failed to clear the puck twice and got stuck in their own end. That was as close as Washington would get and Ottawa snuck away with the 3-2 win.
- If Zibanejad plays as well Wednesday as he did on Tuesday, he might force the Senators to keep him in Ottawa. He was flying all night, and was the Senators best skater by a wide margin. He was physical, handled the puck with confidence and played on almost every line.
- When the lineup shuffling began, I think Paul MacLean would have liked to shuffle Guillaume Latendresse off the roster. He started on the “first” line with Turris and Alfredsson, and when he was replaced my Michalek on that line he ended up on the de facto 4th line with Peter Regin and Jakob Silfverberg.
- O’Brien, Erik Condra and Zibanejad was the best line on the ice for Ottawa, and Zibanejad earned extra ice time on the Ottawa power play and looked impressive all night.
- Alex Ovechkin has lost his heart somewhere, so if you find one laying around somewhere, please return it to the Capitals. He looked completely disinterested all night and had perhaps one rush all evening that made you take notice of him. Ditto Nicklas Backstrom. Ward and Ribeiro were the most noticeable players for the Capitals.
SENSHOT’S PLAYER OF THE GAME
This one is a tie between Anderson and Zibanejad. Anderson gets the nod for his stellar play in the net, and especially his late saves on Chimera (with the score tied) and Ribeiro (leading by one). Zibanejad, from the opening faceoff on, was the only Senator with noticeable jump as he displayed speed and an edge that Ottawa was hoping to see from him. He looked really strong on the boards as well, and once his wiry frame fills out a bit, he will be a dangerous power forward to contend with.
Ottawa gets right back into action against the Montreal Canadiens, who pay a visit to Ottawa Wednesday night.