Craig Anderson got the start in New Jersey a night after Robin Lehner won against the Philadelphia Flyers. It was a great game for Anderson to shine in and to help the Senators regain some of the points lost earlier in their road trip. Anderson was the difference-maker in a game that saw Ottawa outshot 3 to 1. The final shot count was 33 for New Jersey and 11 for Ottawa. The Senators managed to bury the few chances they had on Martin Brodeur. In the 2nd period, when the Senators could only managed 6 shots, they got goals from recent AHL call-up Jean Gabriel Pageau and Milan Michalek. Michalek was back after missing the past 15 games with a knee injury. He scored at the 6:52 mark of the 2nd period to give the Senators some much needed breathing room. Despite being outplayed and spending most of the game in their end – Anderson was able to give them confidence. Ottawa’s defensemen worked hard all night, it may have been their hardest game this season, but they were equal to the task and they were rewarded for it with a much needed win. We’ll all go to bed breathing just a little bit easier with the playoffs back in our sights.
The 1st period wasn’t the most exciting hockey that the Senators have ever played. It wasn’t until Steve Sullivan took two shots on goal, with one clanging of the post around the 11.30 mark, that Anderson was tested. Most of the Devils’ shots had been from the perimeter up until that point. Marc Methot and Erik Condra took a couple of penalties that overlapped and gave the Devils a two-man advantage for 1.24. The Devils’ PP was horrible enough to have the hometown fans start booing. Without Ilya Kovalchuk their PP has struggled and tonight was no different. Ottawa was able to keep them on the perimeter; they weren’t able to penetrate the Senators’ defense. A little later Jakob Silfverberg was the recipient of a bad turnover near the NJ blue line. He was able to sidestep the first defender and nearly danced around the second but was unable to beat Brodeur with his shot. The other Senator scoring opportunity came when JG Pageau and Sergei Gonchar had an odd man rush just as the Senators’ penalty expired. Pageau held onto the puck and was able to get a clean shot off that Brodeur saved. Most of the period was spent in Ottawa’s zone because of the three penalties they were accessed. Penalties, both for and against, tend to interfere with Ottawa establishing their game. By the end of the period NJ had at least 4-5 good scoring chances. Shots were 9 to 3 for NJ.
Ottawa is 11-4-2 when they lead after the first period; I wonder what they are when being outshot 3 to 1? Ottawa’s 5th shot of the game is a goal when Pageau tips a Colin Greening shot over Brodeur’s glove. This is Pageau’s 2nd NHL game – he gets his 1st goal and 2nd point. On the next shift they have together Pageau works the boards behind the net and slid the puck onto Greening’s stick in front of the net for another good scoring opportunity. A few minutes later at 6.52 and the Senators get on the scoreboard again as Milan Michalek, back from missing the last 15 games due to a knee injury, teams up with line mate Daniel Alfredsson to score his 3rd goal of the season. Michalek causes a turnover at the NJ blueline and skates past the NJ defender. He gets the puck back onto his stick at the goalmouth and fires it by Brodeur. The pace of the period picks up after the goal, coincidently there are no penalties and the momentum appears to have shifted in Ottawa’s favour. It isn’t until around the 11 minute mark of the period that NJ is able to establish a good cycle low in Ottawa’s zone. Ottawa’s caught flat-footed and are chasing the puck. NJ is jamming Anderson and making body contact when they can. David Clarkson ends the sequence by chopping Zack Smith in the back of the legs after a clean check. The gloves come off and a few glancing punches are thrown. By the end of it Ottawa comes away with a PP as Adam Henrique gets called for crosschecking. NJ has 11 shorthanded goals this season – good for 1st in the league. They look to add to that total when Ryan Carter, on a two man rush, gets stonewalled by Anderson. NJ goes on the PP at 13:33 after Eric Gryba gets called for hooking. Pageau continues to impress and ends up taking some defensive zone face-offs while NJ is on the PP. Again, NJ’s PP is tentative and the Senators push them to the perimeter. After that the teams trade a few scoring chances. NJ continues to buzz around in the Ottawa zone. They end the period with some sustained offense when they’re able to get several pucks into the slot area and blast them at Anderson. Anderson never loses his cool and is able to control most of the rebounds; his defensemen clear the rest. The shots on goal for the period are 6 for Ottawa and 14 for New Jersey.
My notes on the third period aren’t great as I got caught up in the game. At the 14.30 mark Guillaume Latendresse stands up in the neutral zone and breaks up a NJ rush. He passes to Smith; Smith goes in and dishes back to Latendresse. Latendresse rips his shot off the post for the Senators’ best chance in the third period. NJ rushes the puck back down the ice for a 3 on 2 odd man rush. Anderson thwarts their attempt but the puck eventually rolls out front into a group of players. Three Ottawa players are all over the puck and they clear the zone. For the rest of the period Ottawa is fighting and clawing to keep the Devils in check. They’re losing some of their defensive battles but Ottawa’s overall commitment to team defense handles the pressure. Ottawa isn’t able to establish their fore-checking game as they’re too busy protecting their lead. It isn’t until there’s 5:55 left on the clock when Michalek’s speed allows him to break in on Brodeur. Devils’ defenseman Peter Harrold gets called for hooking on the play. With 2.13 left on the clock NJ pulls Brodeur from the net in hopes of solving Anderson. Ottawa gets a couple of good chances at the empty net before the final buzzer sounds.
- I could easily put in Anderson but I think I’ve already covered his importance. Ottawa’s first line has been struggling recently, so Milan Michalek’s return has to be mentioned. Michalek doesn’t seem to have missed a step despite his knee issues over the past weeks. He added an insurance marker to give Ottawa some confidence. His speed was instrumental in driving past NJ defenders and scoring his goal. Another offensive threat in the lineup can only help Ottawa’s drive to the play-offs.
- JG Pageau has no idea that he’s too short to play in the NHL; he plays like he’s twice the size he is. He skates very well, is strong on the puck, has his stick in all the right places and uses his body very effectively against opponents who are bigger and stronger. He had 12.52 of ice time while recording 1 shot (a GWG) and 1 hit. Denis Potvin called his forechecking “relentless”. Perfect. With depth like this the Senators will have no problem getting rid of any passengers they feel aren’t contributing enough. Anyone with 0 goals are on notice.
- David Clarkson seems to be the catalyst for the Kovalchuk-free Devils. Clarkson leads by example and plays a very complete game. He’s their leader in goal scoring and penalty minutes. Any sustained offense usually had Clarkson involved in it and he was willing to fight when he was challenged by Zack Smith. Who doesn’t want a player like that on their team?
SENSHOT PLAYER OF THE GAME
Craig Anderson appears to have found the mojo that he was working with before his ankle injury put him on the sidelines for the past 6 weeks. While he lost against both Florida teams earlier in the road trip, he looks to have regained that quiet confidence which has seen him put up statistics that will have him under consideration for a Vezina Trophy. The Senators were badly outshot 33-11 but Anderson’s calmness, rebound control and overall stellar play kept them in it and allowed them to get the win. It was Anderson’s 3rd shutout of the season and the 22nd of his career. He was also named the first star of the game.
The Ottawa Senators are looking to finish their 7 game road trip by extending their current winning streak to 3 games. They started their longest road trip of the season by losing 4 games in a row and would like to avenge their loss to Boston when they take on the Bruins Monday April 15th at 7pm.