If the Ottawa Senators got an undeserved win against the LA Kings off bad calls, they were paid back with an undeserved loss against the Pittsburgh Penguins in an afternoon melee that ended 2-1 in favour of the Pens. It was a close game right up until the end and neither team took a holiday as the shots on goal hit the 80 plus mark on the day, keeping both goaltenders very very busy.
The good news for Ottawa was that Leclaire was up to the task with 38 saves on the day, while Fleury racked up 43 saves. Despite both goaltenders being trained in what some would call Montreal style goaltending with an emphasis on the butterfly down low, they also looked sharp on the glove side. Fleury in particular has had a rough time with the glove in the past, but not this time, although rebound control still seems to be his Achilles heel. Fleury gets better, though, as the game progresses, and his confidence is probably due to the goal support that he gets from his team, something that Leclaire has not been so fortunate with.
The stats indicate that the Senators average 1.3 goals a game and 20 shots on goal a night- pathetic numbers for any team and they don’t inspire confidence in any netminders. Ottawa fixed that problem by coming out fists flying in the first with more shots on goal in the first period than they’ve accumulated in whole games leading up to this afternoon. Good aggressive play and persistence by Ottawa’s grinders led to Winchester’s rebound goal in the first. Had this persisted through to the second and third, the game story would have been different.
The third period was an officiating nightmare for the Senators, with Kelly taking two minors resulting in 4 minutes of penalty killing and a power play goal from Goligoski that should not have counted due to what should have been an interference call after Fisher was knocked down in the zone. Also not called was a stick to the face that Neil took, and then compounding the situation, a roughing call on Neil after Lovejoy dumped him onto a fighting mad Fleury. It’s not often that you see goaltenders taking penalties, particularly for roughing- but it was clear that this game ruffled up some feathers on both sides.
It was a quick, aggressive game that did not disappoint. After coming off that snoozer with the Dallas Stars, it was great to see some jump in the team, shooting pucks, getting mad, dumping players into the boards and looking more like a real team. Erik Karlsson made a great return to the ice with lots of good plays and an assist, and the highlight of the night has to go to Karlsson’s unforgettable stink eye on Matt Cooke in the penalty box for the back check. It’s unclear whether or not he’s speaking English or Swedish in this situation, but the message was loud and clear to all viewers: I’ve got my eye on you, buddy, and you’re going to get yours.
It’s always a treat to see a talented, well-rounded team like the Pittsburgh Penguins take on the Ottawa Senators, particularly because of the long playoff history that exists between the two squads. It’s also nice to see that mutual respect exists between them, with Pittsburgh fans saluting Alfie and Kovalev for their milestone 1000 points, and Spezza and Crosby both learning from each other and expressing admiration for the other’s skills. The two teams played a spirited game, not letting the 1pm timing slow them down or take away from the drama. If only the refs had kept their eyes open too- the cheap shots on the night clearly came off their bad and absent calls.
Of course, it is the day after American Thanksgiving, so someone may still be feeling the sleepy after effects of turkey.
It was still a close game and if Ottawa can take this momentum into tomorrow’s tilt against another familiar rival, Toronto, they should be able to provide an early gift to all Senators fans and do the thing that we love to see them do: Beat the Leafs.
About the Author
Written by Mika Oehling
Office worker and sports nerd. Cannot play a professional sport to save my life, but love to write. Prone to rants, raves, snarky humour and caustic commentary. My team's the Ottawa Senators. Author of Armchair Hockey, a work of humourous fiction released this year and available for sale online at Chapters and Amazon.