It wasn’t exactly the Montreal Canadiens’ “A” squad, but the Ottawa Senators used 5 unanswered goals that were book-ended by Montreal tallies to take the first meeting since the Senators eliminated the Habs from the 2013 playoffs.
Montreal got on the board early, on the first shot of the game. Magnus Nygren walked down the wing and beat surprise starter Andrew Hammond short side, quieting the Ottawa fans and creating a cheer from the many Montreal fans in attendance. On the ensuing face-off, Chris Neil squared off with Nick Tarnasky, a scrap that was uneventful with no real punches landing and Neil scoring the takedown. Ottawa evened the score at the 5 minute mark, with Cory Conacher sending a nice cross-ice pass to Clarke MacArthur who buried it past Peter Budaj. Ottawa took the lead, as it turned out for good, when Bobby Ryan carried the puck down the wing through the neutral zone and undressed Darren Dietz, followed by a snap shot that beat Budaj. The period ended 2-1 and despite trailing in shots by a count of 10-5, that wasn’t really an indication of the play.
Things started to bubble over partway through the second, when Chris Neil got tied up with both Ryan White and Travis Moen. Frederik Claesson stepped in to help his teammate, and ended up paired off with Moen, and the result was not good for Claesson. He will not be taking the Matt Carkner role any time soon, but give him credit for stepping in. However, because he was in the second altercation in the same stoppage, he was given the game (along with Moen) and the Senators were forced to go with 5 defesnsemen for more than half the game. The lone goal of the period came out of a scramble in the crease area that Milan Michalek chipped over Budaj. Bobby Ryan didn’t get and assist on the goal, but he did act like an NFL fullback in moving the pile so that Michalek could get to the puck.
Conacher, playing the front of the net on an early 3rd period power play, tipped home Patrick Wiercioch‘s point shot to give the Senators a 3 goal lead before the 4 minute mark of the frame. Less than 5 minutes later, Ottawa finished their scoring for the night when Erik Karlsson‘s point shot was tipped by Michalek. Budaj stopped the tip, but Mika Zibanejad pounced on the rebound and stuffed it home. Rafael Diaz rounded out the scoring when his point shot somehow found its way through half a dozen bodies and past a startled Hammond.
Make the Final Ottawa 5, Montreal 2.
SENSHOT’S PLAYER OF THE GAME
While Erik Karlsson had 3 assists and was the first star in the building, it was Cory Conacher who stole the show in my mind, and his performance against Montreal may have been enough to solidify a hold on the second line spot that he lined up in for this game. He had a goal and an assist and played a tenacious game and seems to read well off of MacArthur.
NOTES & OBSERVATIONS
- After allowing a weak goal to start, Hammond was solid for the rest of the game, making 24 saves after getting the start with about 15 minutes’ notice. Expected starter Nathan Lawson was injured in the warmup and Scott Greenham dressed quickly to back up Hammond.
- Stephane Da Costa got a plum assignment to take Jason Spezza‘s spot between Ryan and Michalek as the new captain sat out with an undisclosed (but not back-related) injury. Da Costa fared ok at times, but more often than not seemed to get in the way of his wingers and on a couple of occassions, even his defensemen.
- Jean-Gabriel Pageau, on the other hand was put between Chris Neil and Matt Kassian, and played well in that role. He was creative and provided some quickness to the line, that I am dubbing “Thunder and Lightning” should that be a combination that Paul MacLean uses in the regular season.
- Only Erik Condra could hit the post from 2 feet away with a wide open net, and that is exactly what happened in the first period.
It will be a very different looking set of lineups for the return matchup on Thursday night in Montreal. Expect the Habs to dress way more than the 6 NHL regulars that took the ice at Canadian Tire Centre. Meanwhile the Senators will be playing their third game in three days, so their lineup will look quite different as well. Turrs and MacArthur are ineligible to play, having already played 2 nights in a row, ditto Wiercioch, Corvo, Neil, Greening and Da Costa. With Craig Anderson nursing some bumps and bruises and Lawson also injured, Robin Lehner will likely get the call.