Game Recap – OTT @ TB – McElhinney Shines In The Sunshine State

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GAME RECAP

The Ottawa Senators traveled across the state of Florida to take on their expansion cousins the Tampa Bay Lightning.  The teams are at the opposite end of the spectrum, with the Lightning chasing first place in their division and the Senators chasing last in the conference.  Curtis McElhinney made his first start as a Senator, giving Craig Anderson a rest.  Dwayne Roloson started for Tampa.

The first period started off without much fanfare, and McElhinney looked sharp early on, making a point blank save off Dominic Moore. Ottawa enjoyed a couple of early power plays, and were able to jump on the board first as Erik Karlsson‘s pass/shot bounced off Ryan Shannon right out front to Jason Spezza, who batted the puck to the back of the net.  The officials seemed to be on edge and were keeping a tight rein on the game as questionable calls were given to both sides. The period ended 1-0 in favor of Ottawa, with McElhenny stopping all 6 shots fired in his direction.

Ottawa jumped out in the second period as a nice rush allowed Bobby Butler to break free behind the defense.  A smooth pass from Colin Greening and a good deke from Butler was all it took to give Ottawa a 2-0 lead 53 seconds in.  A pair of early power plays failed to give the Senators an insurance marker, but McElhinney continued to excel, making a stop on Vinnie Lecavalier midway through the period.  Yet another power play failed to yeild a third goal, but McElhinney stood his ground in a couple of goalmouth scrambles to close the period with a 2-0 lead.

The third saw Butler get another early chance, but this time was unable to capitalize, followed by Ottawa taking not 1 but 2 penalties on the same stoppage in play.  With the two man advantage, Tampa was not to be denied as Steven Stamkos fired a shot that McElhinney got most of but slipped through, allowing Martin St. Louis to knock in a 2-inch shot for the goal.  The goal ended an impressive streak of penalty killing for the Senators (8 games and 30+ straight penalties killed) and gave the Bolts some jump.  Tampa received back to back power plays in the second half of the third, and thanks to some timely saves by McElhinney, were able to kill both off.  A furious rally in the last minute was snuffed out by McElhinney and the Senators escaped with their third straight 2-1 victory.

THE UPSIDE

Curtis McElhinney is trying to prove himself to be an NHL talent, and although one game is a small sample, he excelled tonight.  Although not overly busy early on, he earned the win in the third period with 20 saves in that stanza.

Brian Lee may have found his calling with another solid game as a partner for Chris Phillips.  The duo was a thorn in the side of Stamkos and St. Louis all night long.

Erik Karlsson dominated in the first period, and finished with 4 shots on goal and 3 blocked shots.

THE DOWNSIDE

Ryan Potulny, mainly through lack of opportunity, has been a disappointment.  I think he should be given more than 6 minutes per game to prove his worth.  With that little time and the players he is playing with make it difficult to prove whether his 15 goals in less than 60 games in Edmonton last season was a flash in the pan or a true indication of his ability level.

Catch the Game Highlights courtesy of NHL.com

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MY THREE STARS

3rd Star – Vincent Lecavalier, TB – Generated more scoring chances than any Lightning player.  Despite being held pointless he was the best player on the ice in black.

2nd Star – Jason Spezza, OTT – Scored the opening goal and played key roles in all situations.  Won almost 60% of his faceoffs.

1st Star – Curtis McElhinney, OTT – Great debut as a Senator, stopped 34 shots, most of them in the third period after the Lightning drew within one goal.


FINAL THOUGHT

The remnants of the Chara/Pacioretty incident are being felt throughout the league.  Marginal penalties are being called that are interrupting the flow of the games and making them tough to watch.  A penalty is a penalty, and right now there are a lot of calls being made that are not penalties, mainly because referees are not wanting to miss something.

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