If you are an optimist, the Ottawa Senators come home from Montreal with home ice advantage and even in their first round series 1-1. If you are a pessimist you think that the Senators blew a great opportunity to put a sleeper-hold on a team in turmoil that was without three of its top forwards and seemingly distracted by off-ice name calling and worrying that they were not getting the proper respect.
Yes, on the day that Eric Gryba was handed a 2 games ban for his hit on Lars Eller, Brandon Prust and Michel Therrien hurled insults in the direction of Paul MacLean, it was a combination of some uncharacteristic play as well as an inept power play that proved to be the Senators’ undoing in game 2. Carey Price also bounced back with a solid and sometimes spectacular performance, outplaying Craig Anderson and with those factors the predictable result was a 3-1 Montreal victory.
Montreal came out inspired in the first period, continuing the strategy of firing shots at Anderson from anywhere and everywhere. A night after making 48 saves in the win, Anderson was up to the task, turning away 14 shots. After killing off the first penalty, awarded to Sergei Gonchar whose stick came up after he was slew-footed by Habs pest Brendan Gallagher, Ottawa missed a chance to get on the board early by getting 3 power plays of their own as the Candiens had some scrambly play. Ottawa couldn’t get the needed pressure with the man advantage, which would come back to haunt them later. Even with the 3-1 power play advantage, the Habs outshot the Senators 14-8 but the score was even at 0’s.
A 53 second span early in the second period would prove to be the Senators’ undoing. First, Erik Karlsson‘s backhand, cross-ice saucer pass attempt while skating in the wrong direction was plucked out of the air by Ryan White who knocked it towards the Ottawa net and through a startled Craig Anderson, who fanned on the attempt to turn it aside. Then just after Kyle Turris had a great opportunity to even the score quickly, Montreal came back down and the Senators left Gallagher all alone in front of the net and the puck squirted out to him and before Turris could tie him up the pesky Habs forward had made it 2-0 just 4:13 into the second. Ottawa got one of those goals back just over 4 minutes later as a delayed penalty to the Canadiens allowed Anderson to get to the bench for an extra attacker. Chris Phillips fired a point shot that was tipped on the way in by Milan Michalek and past Price. The deathblow to the Senators came with just over a minute left, as Ottawa was guilty of puck watching and allowed Michael Ryder to get free at the side of the net. Rene Bourque carried the puck into traffic in the slot area and it slipped out to Ryder who quickly put it past a diving Anderson. After 40 minutes Montreal held a 3-1 lead.
A pair of tired teams played the third period, and Ottawa didn’t have much left in the tank as they tried their best but couldn’t find a way to pull the trigger as the Ryder goal seemed to let any air out of the Senators’ sails. They couldn’t muster much of an attack as the Canadiens did a good job of clogging up the passing lanes and denying Ottawa entry in to the Habs’ zone. When all was said and done, a good win for the Canadiens and both teams move a couple of hours down the highway for Sunday evening’s game 3 in Ottawa after Montreal evened the series with a 3-1 final.
- It was a pretty inconspicuous play, but during the first period Erik Karlsson was knocked off balance and kind of did a pirouette on his recently repaired leg. I am not sure he didn’t tweak something on the play because he was not the same player Ottawa fans have come to know and love. He didn’t have the breakaway speed nor did he have his usual dominant effect. He still played almost 30 minutes,but he made some uncharacteristic plays, such as the weak pass in the slot that led to the game’s opening goal.
- I was surprised to see Andre Benoit in the lineup as opposed to Patrick Wiercioch. At this point, Wiercioch adds more than Benoit at both ends of the ice, and Benoit hadn’t played Since April 12th, and although he had an assist on the Ottawa goal, he didn’t exactly set the world on fire. I am not sure why Paul MacLean didn’t use Wiercioch to start the series in Gryba’s spot, let alone replace him after he got suspended.
- This game goes to show just how important goaltending really is. Anderson has a slightly off game and didn’t get much help and Ottawa doesn’t have the offensive firepower to overcome it.
SENSHOT’S PLAYER OF THE GAME
I would be hard pressed to identify a Senators player who really stood out and played above the call of duty. And since it is our custom to put a Senators player in this spot win or lose, I will pass on naming a player of the game. Because I refuse to give it to Montreal #8 after his comments directed towards MacLean.
Scotiabank Place will be an interesting environment Sunday night as the Senators make their home playoff debut. What level of Montreal fans gained access to tickets and what will their presence be?
OTHER GAMES OF THE NIGHT