Game Report: NJ @ OTT: “O”‘Neil Steps Up



The Senators hosted the red-hot New Jersey Devils for a St. Patrick’s Day match-up at Scotiabank Place.  The Devils came in hoping to continue a Cinderella run toward a playoff spot, while the Senators just want to salvage a little bit of dignity.  With Craig Anderson nursing a lower body injury, Curtis McElhinney made his first start in front of the home crowd.  As ususal, Martin Brodeur was in the Devils’ net. The question of the night is will this game be watchable or will it be another snoozefest like the last meeting?

The first period got off to a good start, as there were chances at both ends of the ice.  Marek Svatos and Colin Greening had excellent chances in the first five minutes, but were unable to break the ice.  McElhinney was good early on, making some key saves early on against Dainius Zubrus and Ilya Kovalchuk.  It wasn’t until late in the period, with New Jersey in penalty trouble that Ottawa was able to get on the board.  Unable to score on a 45 second 5-on-3, they were able to score just after it expired, as Jason Spezza banked a slapshot off Ryan Shannon‘s leg into the net, to give the Senators a 1-0 lead heading into the intermission.

The second period was all New Jersey, but McElhinney must have had a four leaf clover in his jockstrap as he was up to the task, making several key saves while killing two penalties as Ottawa was outshot 11-3 in the frame.  The netminder stood strong and turned away all chances, keeping the Senators in the lead after 40 minutes.

Coach Clouston must have read the riot act in the intermission, as Ottawa came out flying.  Their early pressure paid dividends as Chris Neil was rewarded for net presence by deflecting Erik Karlsson‘s point shot over Brodeur to the back of the net, 55 seconds into the frame.  New Jersey appeared to be on the board shortly thereafter, but the Colin White goal was waved off due to Adam Mair taking McElhinney’s feet out from under him while the shot was in process.  With Colin Greening off for hooking, New Jersey finally beat McElhinney as Brian Rolston‘s point shot beat the Senators netminder from the mid point of the blue line. McElhinney made his best (and most timely) save of the night on a Kovalchuck breakaway with about 7 minutes left.  The Russian sniper was sent in clear from the red line, but was denied  by McElhinney’s left pad.  In the dying minutes, with Brodeur on the bench, Spezza found Neil in centre ice, and he made no mistake, depositing it in the empty net for his second goal of the game.

The win bumped the Senators past the Colorado Avalanche for 28th overall, while the Devils will regret the two recent losses to the Senators should their playoff aspirations fall just short.


Chris Neil had perhaps his best game in some time, as he was taking the body all over the ice and added his first two goal game of the season, nearly doubling his season output to date.

Jason Spezza continued his stellar play in both ends of the ice.

The three main faceoff men (Spezza, Zack Smith and Jesse Winchester) were all well above 50% on faceoffs.

Erik Karlsson, who was a league worst -36 entering the game, was +2 with one assist while playing over 26 minutes.


Colin Greening had a rough shift late in the third as he was nearly decapitated by a Zubrus clothesline, and then later on was roughed up by White.  Neither play was called by the officials.

Here are the GAME HIGHLIGHTS courtesy

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3rd Star – Jason Spezza, OTT – Two assists and played over 21 minutes, was +1 and 53% on faceoffs.

2nd Star – Chris Neil, OTT – Two goals including the game winner, +2 with 6 hits.

1st Star – Curtis McElhinney, OTT – Thirty-three saves, and kept Ottawa in the game during a lackluster 2nd period.


I can’t understand why Francis Lessard is occupying a roster spot with this Senators team.  He is unable to keep pace at this level, and in his 14 games played, he has yet to skate more than 6:31 in any game.  Surely his spot could better be served with a player like Ryan Potulny or even Corey Locke, who could take a regular shift.  In Potulny’s case, he wasn’t given a fair shot to show what he had to offer because Lessard offers absolutely no offensive upside on his line, and nothing for Potulny to work with.  The two scraps in 14 games isn’t enough  to warrant an NHL paycheck, in my mind, and Lessard deserves to be in Binghamton.