After losing a 5-2 stinker to the LA Kings, the ping-pong Ottawa Senators bounced back with a 3-2 OT win tonight against the second best team in the wild and wooly Western Conference – the St. Louis Blues.
Unlike other Sens wins, this was a game steeped in magic, mystery and musical puck play (and a stunning, seeing-eye game-winning and first NHL goal by young Cody Ceci.)
Being at the game, I was able to snag a 400 level, birds-eye view of the RABHA, and they largely controlled the pace of this entire match.
And on this night of whimsy and alchemy, guess who opened up the scoring? Well, wouldn’t you know it – it was a little guy named Jean-Gabriel Pageau (who I referenced as a needed spark plug for this team in an earlier article).
In other news, I’m so meta…but back to the recap:
Pushing the puck out of their own end with strength and confidence, the neutral and offensive zone play of the Sens was largely north and south-based tonight, filled with tape-to-tape passes and fast skating. They kept St Louis on their heels for most the contest.
The only sour spots of the game occurred at the end of the second period, as Chris ‘Stew-pot’ Stewart scored twice in less than four minutes (16:50 and 19:47) and sent the Sens to the locker room down 2-1.
Thankfully, Bobby Ryan potted his 16th plant of the harvest at 5:44 of the third and the Sens clamped down to force the OT.
But the most beautiful, floaty and potion-filled moment of the night happened with 1 minute left in OT when Cody Ceci became a local hero, and scored his first ever NHL goal on a wrister from the point, and helped nab 2 points from the Blues.
You couldn’t ask for a more storybook-esque ending to the game/first goal for a young player, and Ceci was flooded and encircled by his ecstatic teammates.
(Also – I’m pretty sure these guys were happy too:)
THE LEHNER RELEASED AND UNLEASHED:
Even though he wasn’t one of the three stars, the Sens would not have won this game without The Lehner between the pipes.
Stopping 30 of 32 shots from the high-octane Blues, Lehner gave his team a chance to win and kept the game competitive at all times.
I wasn’t super happy with either of the goals that Stewart scored, but they happened (and were created) because of a few sloppy D-zone breakdowns (surprise, surprise) and can’t be blamed solely on him. Lehner looked unruffled and focused tonight, and made some brilliant point blank stops (including a beautiful ‘flapjack-stack’ on Steen at the side of the net) – the RABHA rallied around his galvanizing play.
Coach Paulrus has mentioned that he is going to go with Lehner for the next few games, which should help get him out of platoon-mode with Anderson and give him a consistent feel for being the #1 goalie.
THE FEAR AND THE HUNGER:
When Ottawa has played its best hockey this year, it has happened on nights when the team is afraid. They play their worst when the local media (and most likely the team) walks slovenly into afternoon or regular games against ‘teams they should beat’.
Much like the game against Buffalo last Thursday, they were driving pucks down the ice tonight and they were throwing them at the net and getting bodies in the face of Brian Elliott.
They looked desperate and they looked like a team that is not going to go quietly into the night.
I think I’m starting to believe that they are turning a corner.
Let’s see if they can string a few together and keep the magic alive, as they play three games in four nights this week.
The 14-15-6 RABHA roll into New Jersey to take on the Devils at 7:30 EST on Wednesday.