It is not very often that you get to celebrate your first NHL goal twice. For Andre Benoit, whose first first NHL goal celebration was short-lived due to a phantom goaltender interference call against the Montreal Canadiens, his second first NHL goal stood up as the game winner as the Ottawa Senators defeated the Islanders 3-1 in a much needed home ice victory. In a night of firsts, Dave Dziurzynski also netted his first NHL goal and Eric Gryba recorded his first NHL assist.
There were two main stories to this game. The first being the stellar play of Craig Anderson, who made 37 saves. The second storyline was the play of Ottawa’s shutdown line of Zack Smith, Chris Neil and Dziurzynski, who along with Marc Methot and Gryba, did a fantastic job of shutting down the Isles top line of John Tavares, Matt Moulson and Brad Boyes.
The first period was slow moving and devoid of chances as the teams, who both played the previous afternoon, got their legs under them and got into the groove. There was no scoring and the shots favoured the Islanders, 8-7.
The second period was much more appealing to the spectators, as it was more action packed and Anderson was out of his mind, making a number of spectacular saves. The offensively challenged Senators finally got on the board six minutes in when Daniel Alfredsson threw the puck from behind the net into the crease area and after a couple of whacks, Colin Greening got enough of it to put one past Rick DiPietro for the Senators second goal in eight plus periods. The Senators started playing with some confidence after that goal, and two and a half minutes later, Benoit fired a slap shot from the point that made it through traffic and past DiPietro. Benoit might not have taken a look at each referee before celebrating, but I certainly did, but the goal stood and the St.Albert native got a rousing ovation for his first career goal. Anderson made 17 saves in the period to keep the Islanders off the board.
The Islanders got one back early in the third as Travis Hamonic’s blast from the point went off someone on the way to the net and deflected to the top corner. Ottawa and Anderson hung on as the Islanders pressed, firing another 13 shots at Anderson. Late in the game, Ottawa took any doubt out of the result when Dziurzynski chipped a rebound off a Smith shot past DiPetro for his first NHL goal. He might have to split the puck in half, as Gryba earned his first NHL point on the goal. A late 5-on-3 for the Senators cut down any chance of an Islanders miracle as Kyle Okposo took a high sticking call and Tavares took an usportsmanlike conduct penalty with 33 seconds left to essentially end the game.
- Gryba is obviously a very different player than Erik Karlsson, but he has transitioned to the Senators top pairing very well and is very good defensively, which is how the Senators are going to win games without their two top offensive threats.
- The penalty kill was 4/4 and smothered Tavares, not giving him many opportunities.
- Anderson is by far the top goalie in the league right now, and continues to ensure the Senators stay in games. He got some help from his iron friends, but by and large he was stellar.
SENSHOT’S PLAYER OF THE GAME
Zack Smith did an outstanding job against Tavares. The defensive assignment to shut down the Islanders top line was met with enthusiasm, and for many of their head to head shifts Smith, Neil and Dziurzynski kept the Islanders in their own end with a strong cycle game. Smith earned an assist on the Sens third goal and was +1 in over 18 minutes up against one of the league’s top players. He was also 50% against Tavares in the faceoff circle, but more importantly was 63% in the defensive end.
The Senators have a day off before they host the other New York team, the Rangers on Thursday. The Rangers are coming off a 3-1 loss to the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday.