Game Report: Comeback Kids Suprise Lightning 3-2 in OT

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(source: TONY CALDWELL/OTTAWA SUN/QMI AGENCY)

Your Ottawa Senators battled the Tampa Bay Lightning last night in their first Saturday night game in three weeks. Playing the Lightning for the second time in nine days, Ottawa looked to surprise the playoff bound Bolts again and hand them their eighth loss in their last ten games. With nothing left to play for, Ottawa hoped to at least put on a good show for their home crowd as their record in front of Sens Army has been dreadful this season.

The first period saw Ottawa outplayed from the first faceoff to the end of the period. Being out shot 13-3 (with their first shot coming with 4:14 left in the period), it seemed like it was going to be a long night for Sens fans. Tampa got on the board first as Vincent Lecavalier was sent in on a break-a-way and buried his 19th of the year to put the Bolts up 1-0 after 20 minutes. Curtis McElhinney was the only reason the score didn’t get out of hand in the first. He made many amazing saves and was lucky as a few shot ringed off the post.

The second period started off with Sergei Gonchar  getting hit along the boards and having to leave the game with a concussion. The hit itself looked innocent but Gonchar rattled his head on the glass which caused the injury. Playing shorthanded on the backend, Ottawa tried their best to maintain Tampa’s offensive weapons. However, 7:42 into the period, Dana Tyrell  caught a few Senators flat footed in the neutral zone and broke in on McElhinney. Making a deke to his back hand, Tyrell avoided McElhinney’s poke check and was able to put it in off Filip Kuba. The period ended with Bolts’ defencman Eric Brewer catching Jason Spezza with his head down crossing the red line and laid a massive hit on him.

As the third period started, it was noticeable that the crowd of 18,000 plus had begun to thin out. But wanting to give Sens Army something to cheer for, Ottawa came out guns-a-blazing. With only 12 shots in the first two periods, Ottawa directed 18 shots at the Tampa net in the third. Playing more agressively and taking chances, Ottawa capitalized on an ineffective Lightning powerplay as Erik Condra sent Ryan Shannon  in on a shorthanded break-a-way that he was able to deke out Dwayne Roloson to get Ottawa on the scoresheet. Building off that momentum, Ottawa swarmed the Tampa net and Nick Foligno was able to tip in the tying goal off a Zach Smith pass/shot a few minutes later. After 60 minutes, Ottawa was able to claw their way back into this game and push it to overtime with a score of 2-2.

The overtime period presented many chances for both teams as the four on four play was very exciting to watch. Making five saves in overtime, McElhinney kept Ottawa alive. With a buck and a half to go in the overtime frame, Erik Karlsson and Jason Spezza  broke in on a mini two-on-one break. Karlsson was able to saurcer a pass over the defender’s stick to Spezza who fumbled the puck but still managed to score. Going into the third period in a 2-0 deficit, Ottawa showed some pride and never gave up and was able to pull off this surprising comeback win in OT.

With their improved play since the trade deadline, Ottawa has won six out of their last ten games. Even though they are still in the Eastern Conference basement, they have been able to climb their way out of the NHL basement and have gained some dignity. Goaltending has been key to their recent success as Craig Anderson and now Curtis McElhinney have brought stability to the net. What does this improved play mean going forward is hard to tell, but it’s a whole lot more fun to watch Sens games now than it was a few months ago.

The Positives

Jason Spezza  proved last night why he is the future captain of this team. Not only did he lead all forwards in ice time with 26:05 minutes, he was all over the ice trying to get Ottawa back into this game. Taking a huge hit at the end of the second, Spezza was able to shake it off and net the winner in OT. He carried the team the whole night and got them the victory.

Erik Karlsson  had two assists last night to push his team leading points total to 41. Karlsson is the first Ottawa defenceman in two seasons to break the 40 point mark since Kuba did it two seasons ago. Easily our best defenceman last night, Karlsson was skating hard and creating chances all night.

Ryan Shannon  continues to be one of Ottawa’sbest players since the trade deadline. With three goals in his last three games, Shannon is excelling with his increased ice time. He has already set career highs in goals, assists, points and games played as Shannon is having a great second half of the season.

Curtis McElhinney has started three games in a Sens jersey and has won them all. Stopping 102 out of 106 shots in those three starts, McElhinney is proving to be more than a capable back-up goalie. Playing for a contract next season, Mac is certainly getting the attention of Sens management.

The Negatives

With the comeback win over a superior opponent, there will be no negatives from the team. However, there will be huge negative for all the fans (and I use that term lightly) that left the arena early to beat the traffic home. With the Sens down one goal midway through the third period, some fans thought it was more important to get home faster rather than to support the team in their amazing comeback win.

Here are the Game Highlights courtesy of NHL.com.

***Three Stars***

First Star: Jason Spezza – scored the winner in OT and was a leader on the ice.

Second Star: Erik Karlsson – had two assists last night and was the catalyst for Ottawa’s offense all game. 

Third Star: Curtis McElhinney – made 35 saves and didn’t allow a third goal. Now has a record of 3-0 in his three starts as a Sen.

With six wins in their last ten games, Ottawa is giving their fans hope for the future. The injury to Sergei Gonchar will be a big blow to the D-corps as he has been playing better as of late. With the possibility of Gonchar missing the rest of the season, can Ottawa keep up their improved play against the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday. ‘Til next time, GO SENS GO!!!

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