There were moments of brilliance, but once again defensive miscues were compounded by inconsistent officiating, and in the end the Ottawa Senators lost again. The Florida Panthers took the game 4-2 on the strength of 2 late third period special teams goals that broke a 2-2 tie.
The loss was tough to take on two fronts, as the Leafs won to move 5 points ahead of the Senators, while the loss allowed the Panthers to join the tight mix in the chase for the final playoff spot, moving just a point behind Ottawa and climbing fast.
The start of the game was business as usual for the Senators. Just five and a half mintues in Joe Corvo‘s shot was blocked and created a 2 on 1 that was finished by Jimmy Hayes. This was the second 2 on 1 in as many games that was poorly defended, as Marc Methot was basically in no-man’s land, not taking either the pass or the shot and backing right in on Craig Anderson. This time Ottawa answered back before they could fall behind 2-0 as Chris Neil drove the net and redirected a rebound of a Clarke MacArthur shot past Scott Clemmenson with his skate. It was initially waved off, but after review the goal stood to tie the game. Then just before the period expired, with the Senators on the power play, Jason Spezza took a feed along the right wing boards at centre ice and proceeded to undress Dylan Olson with a great toe-drag at full speed and then roof a snap shot over the shoulder of Clemmenson to send the Senators to the dressing room with an actual lead after 1 period.
The second period was pretty even, and uneventful until the late stages. With about 3 minutes left, Cody Ceci failed to get the puck out of the defensive zone, and the turnover followed by a couple of quick passes opened a shooting lane for Tom Gilbert, whose shot/pass was deflected past Anderson by Aleksander Barkov to tie the game, where it remained through 40 minutes.
Again, the teams played a tight third period and seemed to be content to split the two points and head for extra time, until Jean-Gabriel Pageau‘s stick inadvertently clipped Olsen in the face on a forecheck. The Panthers got a power play, and just before it expired Milan Michalek was hauled down trying to get to a loose puck in his own end, and with no call the Panthers could set up and some nice passing resulted in a wide open one-timer for Gilbert, who didn’t miss from the faceoff dot. With just over 2 and a half minutes remaining, it looked like that was it. However, Spezza was hauled down driving the net and Ottawa got a power play of their own with 1:49 remaining. However, Erik Karlsson tried a spin-o-rama to avoid a sliding defender and lost his footing/was tripped by the stick of the defender, creating a 2 on 1 against Joe Corvo. Corvo played it well and didn’t allow the pass, but Tomas Kopecky found an opening low stick side for the short-handed goal and the nail in the Senators’ coffin.
SENSHOT’S PLAYER OF THE GAME
Chris Neil got a goal by doing his job and driving the net. He also had two thunderous body-checks, one against Jonathan Huberdeau and another on Kopecky.
NOTES & OBSERVATIONS
- Mika Zibanejad left the game early in the first period, after being crushed by a clean check from Erik Gudbranson along the boards in the Florida net. It looked like a shoulder or perhaps collar bone injury and it could sideline the young Swede for some time.
- With the leadership called into question following the loss to New Jersey, Neil and Spezza stepped their games up and were good. The rest of the team needs to follow.
- The Senators continue to look like the keystone cops in their own end, and some practice on 2 on 1′s is likely needed. Methot played his terribly, while Corvo did his job on the late one but Anderson couldn’t come up with the save.
The Senators have another Saturday afternoon game, playing host the the Phoenix Coyotes, who will be coming to town in a bad mood after dropping a controversial shootout decision to the Toronto Maple Leafs.