The Ottawa Senators have been playing below par, I think we can all agree at that. A similarly inconsistent Dallas Stars side traveled to the Canadian Tire Centre on Thursday, looking to stop their three-game slide. Conversely, the Sens needing a win, but more pressingly, needing to score and stop the leak.
It has not been the Ottawa Senators that we saw shutout the Washington Capitals on the 25th of January. They’ve looked disjointed, fatigued and sloppy. Conceding 10 goals in two games whilst getting shutout is no ones idea of romantic as we near Valentines Day.
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In one of the more bizarre first periods you will see this season, Dion Phaneuf made it 1-0 with a quick shot from the point after winning the draw. So quick in fact, the TV cameras could only catch the puck already nestling in the Stars net. Phaneuf also made his journey towards a Gordie Howe hat trick (Goal, Assist & Fight) as he participated in an enjoyable fight with Jamie Benn, seemingly looking to get his team going. Both Benn and Phaneuf would finish one stop short of a Gordie Howe.
The bizarre events of the first didn’t end there, a delayed penalty on Zack Smith led Kari Lehtonen to the bench. Jiri Hudler receives the puck in the neutral zone and essentially attempts to flick it back to a teammate who isn’t there. The puck flies into the Dallas net with six skaters on the ice. It will potentially be the highest profile blunder since Patrik Laine’s, which led to the same score against the Edmonton Oilers. Frustration for Dallas as they had out shot Ottawa 11-6 at this point.
The Senators in no way deserved to be two up, very fortunate events leading to goals. Lehtonen should have done a much better job on the first, as the Stars expensive goaltending woes continued.
Ottawa actually looked better on the Penalty Kill and they had six minutes worth to defend, Phaneuf’s goal coming shorthanded and technically the own goal as well. They were out shot 12-7, this is to be expected when giving up three Powerplay’s with no reply.
It would be wrong to say that the Stars came out and completely dominated the second. You may think so given that the score ended up 2-2. Ottawa out shot Dallas 14-11 and won 17-8 on the face offs yet conceded two goals. The first from Antoine Roussel was a simple case of poor man marking, fortunate pass found him with an empty net with Condon pulled out of position. Dallas’s play from below the net was exciting to watch and seemed dangerous throughout, Ottawa can struggle at times when the puck gets there. The likes of Phanuef definitely struggled with the speed of the Dallas play in that area.
The Star’s second goal came from a collection (you guessed it) below the net, cycled back to Esa Lindell. A shot then deflects of a stick and finds the proactive Jamie Benn who takes a slap-shot from the blue-line.
The statistics point toward Ottawa domination but right now, they simply can’t put teams away. Allowing Dallas back into the game was worrying given the talent, although struggling, that team possesses.
Arguably the least enjoyable period from a hockey fans’ point of view. As Ottawa looked to get the game winner, not looking to over commit offensively. Reflected in the stats as they were out shot 10-6, gifting Dallas four penalty minutes, luckily emerging unscathed.
Mark Stone tucked home the game winner at 6:03 of the third. Stone passing the puck back to Ceci at the right hand boards, while continuing on. Ceci takes a shot that goes wide, Stone intuitively gathers the puck behind and wraps it around Lehtonen’s right post. With the lead, the Sens then shut the game down. To their credit, when Ottawa get a lead, they don’t often lose it.
First and foremost it was a win, it wasn’t pretty but it was a much needed win. More importantly, they scored, not just once, but three times. Mike Condon brushed off the fatigue as he finished with a .939% saving 31 of 33 shots. Ottawa played well in patches, showing some signs of the team we have seen previously. Dallas for their part battled all game, but are desperate for some improvement.
Overall, the Senators got lucky last night, it was not a totally different performance than St. Louis, they offered Condon more support than Hammond but some of the errors are still present. Tom Pyatt was unfortunate to end the night pointless, he made some interesting breakaways just lacking in the final execution.
The New York Islanders travel to Kanta tomorrow for the early game, this is a resurgent team with five wins in their last seven. The Islanders are now hungry for a playoff spot and Ottawa will seriously need to sort themselves out if they don’t want to get pushed aside by the soon to be homeless franchise.