In the early moments of the new NHL season, the Ottawa Senators appear to be no different than a lot of their fans. They seem to prefer working from home.
After starting the season with two losses on the road, the Senators evened their record (2-2) Thursday night with their second straight home win – a 5-2 victory over the Washington Capitals. The Sens were a little late for work, falling behind 2-0 after the first period but they stormed back with five unanswered goals for the win, including two empty net goals to seal the deal.
Sens winger Drake Batherson seemed especially bothered by the first period performance. Near the end of intermission, Batherson could be seen pacing in the tunnel, well before the zamboni was finished, and had that look of a dog by the door, wanting to get outside for a run.
Batherson needed less than eight minutes to tie the game, scoring two goals on the power play. The first came on a one-timer after some nice passing by Brady Tkachuk and Alex DeBrincat. The second came from pure hard work, going hard to the net to finish off his own rebound after he’d redirected a shot from Thomas Chabot.
“For us to answer back like that and get two is obviously big,” Batherson said. “And you’ve got to have a good power play to win… We started the game on the penalty kill and then they get two. It takes the momentum out right away but I thought we stuck with it and got going in the second period.”
Just as he did before his nasty ankle injury last season, Batherson has already positioned himself among the NHL scoring leaders with 6 points in the first 4 games. He and Tkachuk currently stand tied for 18th. Batherson and rookie Shane Pinto share the team lead with three goals apiece.
Pinto’s third in three games was both a beauty and the game winner. It came early in the third period, on a perfect dump and chase. Mathieu Joseph chipped the puck deep, then he and Tyler Motte absolutely blew past Capitals’ defenceman Erik Gustavsson and Trevor Van Riemsdyk, who seemed to have absolutely no interest in going back to retrieve the puck first.
The boys were happy about that.
Joseph collected the puck easily, whipped a backhand pass behind the net to Motte, who then hit Pinto right on the tape, alone in the slot. Pinto’s quick wrister beat goalie Darcy Kuemper for what would stand as the game winning goal.
“Yeah, that was awesome,” Pinto said. “Joe and Motte are there. At the end of the day, they did a good job of forechecking on the play. Luckily, I got that chance. But that was all because of them.
Sens fans got a little nervous Thursday morning when news trickled out that goalie Anton Forsberg was absent from the morning skate. The team was already missing Cam Talbot with a rib injury. Would they be down to their third string goalie after just three games?
Not only was Forsberg just taking the morning off, merely being rested, he had a fantastic game, preserving Ottawa’s third period lead with the save of the year so far.
It’s interesting that the Senators first two wins have come against Boston and Washington. If the Sens have any chance to displace any of last year’s Eastern playoff teams, most analysts agree it would most likely be the Bruins and the Capitals, last season’s bottom two seeds.
Before the game, the Senators honoured former owner Eugene Melnyk with a video tribute and the unveiling of a banner, up in the rafters. Melnyk passed away back in March and left the team to his daughters, Anna and Olivia. The new owners spoke lovingly of their father in the recorded tribute, then came out in Sens home jerseys to drop the puck in the ceremonial faceoff.
After a wild sellout crowd of 19,811 on opening night Tuesday, Canadian Tire Centre attendance slipped noticeably for home game number two of the season, down to 14,210.
The Sens will host Arizona on Saturday afternoon at 4pm. With an earlier start for young families, along with an Oktoberfest theme, perhaps the club will get back to something closer to the opening night crowd. The Sens welcome Dallas on Monday night then close out their homestand Thursday night against Minnesota.
By Steve Warne