March 19, 2017, 9:25 AM ET [19 Comments]
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For the second game in a row, the good old slashing the stick penalty to Derick Brassard proved to be the undoing for the Ottawa Senators. This time, in a game where "the refs are really letting them play", it was a relatively meaningless slash that didn't break the stick but knocked the stick out of the Montreal players' hand with the puck nowhere near and him having no reason to hold onto the stick that was whistled with the Senators leading by a goal in the third period. Ottawa was able to kill off the penalty but moments after it expired Montreal tied the game and then took the lead 30 seconds later.
Ottawa managed to tie it up thanks to Erik Karlsson's point shot with less than five minutes left to force overtime and then the shootout, where Montreal beat Craig Anderson with both shots from Paul Byron and Alexander Radulov, while Bobby Ryan rang his attempt off the post and Kyle Turris was denied by Carey Price to give the Habs the bonus point.
Anderson was a surprise starter, being cleared about an hour before the game after it was earlier suggested that he was hopeful for Tuesday but might be available to back up for this weekend's set with Montreal. He was solid in making 29 saves, but the third Montreal goal that got through him short side from a bad angle by Brendan Gallagher is one that you can't let in at that point of the game.
Brassard had a three point night, scoring the Senators first goal on a nice feed from Kyle Turris that tied the game at 1, assisted on Ryan Dzingel's go-ahead goal just over a minute later and won the faceoff that led to Karlsson's tying marker late in the third. He just has to watch his errant stick because two games in a row he has taken that penalty to put his team in a tough spot while they were up a goal.
At least he has some compete in his game at this point, because the same cannot be said of Ryan. Other than trying to provide a screen, (and on about three occasions last night actually blocking his teammates' drive toward the net. Other than that, his tendency to be off balance, lose the puck off his stick or simply fall over is incredibly frustrating to watch from the team's highest paid player.
With an abundance of overtime games that affected the playoff race last night, the single point was pivotal for the Senators to maintain their gap over the teams chasing them down, even if they did lose ground in the race for the top seed in the Atlantic Division.
They will do it all again tonight, this time at the Bell Centre, where the Canadiens will have an even more partisan crowd than the one that seemed more pro-Habs in terms of volume in the Senators' arena Saturday night.
With the Senators and the Habs both in the middle of a 3-in-4 stretch, it will be interesting to see who plays in goal for this one. Anderson is coming off a lower body injury and you might not want to over-tax him. Guy Boucher indicated in his post-game presser that the process, and being prepared for the playoffs (and making them) was more important than getting first place in the division. If that is true, then Mike Condon should be in the Ottawa net for the back to back, and then Anderson can play Tuesday, Thursday and next Saturday with a day off between each start.