The Ottawa Senators came away with a point in a gut-wrenching loss to the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday night as Nikolaj Ehlers scored the overtime winner. Despite leading for nearly the entire game and outshooting Winnipeg to the tune of 41-28, the Sens let off the gas in the last few minutes, giving away what looked like a certain win.
by Chris Faria
Coming off an impressive split in their season-opening two-game series against the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Senators looked to carry that momentum into the current three-game matchup against Winnipeg. Though they did take two points off the Leafs, the Sens lost their star rookie Tim Stützle to an upper-body injury in the process, keeping him out of tonight’s contest. Alex Galchenyuk drew into the lineup in Stützle’s absence, marking his Senators debut.
Building on that positive momentum from their first two games, the Sens came out on fire, outshooting the Jets 9-2 through the first five minutes. The Sens’ pace and pressure eventually paid off as Jets defenceman Derek Forbort took an interference penalty on Brady Tkachuk, sending Ottawa to an early power play. Following some quick puck movement, rookie Josh Norris fired a pass towards Tkachuk at the net front. While the first attempt was foiled, Norris one-touched the puck back at the net and it squeaked through the legs of goaltender Laurent Brossoit to give the 21-year-old his first NHL goal.
The goal seemed to wake the Jets up as they charged back with some offensive pressure of their own, highlighted by a blast off the post from Kyle Connor. The Sens remained unfazed, though, and continued to push the pace. Just over half way through the period, Nikita Zaitsev snapped the puck at the net in search of a tip. Better yet, Zaitsev found two deflections off the sticks of both Connor Brown and Chris Tierney to put the Senators up 2-0.
Winnipeg would not go quietly into the intermission, though. With under two minutes to play, Adam Lowry tipped home a long-range shot from Neal Pionk to cut the Sens’ lead in half. With the shot clock at 18-10 in favour of Ottawa, the Senators certainly deserved a better fate after what was probably their best period of this young season.
A late period goal might deflate some teams but Lowry’s tally didn’t seem to affect the Sens, who came out just as energized in the second. At the 9:29 mark of the period, Jets blueliner Sami Niku took a delay of game penalty, sending Ottawa to their fourth power play of the game. The Senators snapped the puck around on the man advantage, generating several dangerous looks. With their sixth shot of the power play – and 30th of the game – Galchenyuk teed up a wicked one-timer from the right circle, hammering the puck off the crossbar and in. It was an important goal for the Sens, but maybe even more crucial for the former 30-goal scorer who will look to regain his form in the nation’s capital this season.
But just as we saw in the first period, the Jets refused to lie down. Back on a power play of their own, Winnipeg captain Blake Wheeler stepped out from below the goal line and sent a backdoor pass to Connor, who rifled home his third goal of the season to bring the score to 3-2.
The game was looking all but sealed for the Senators who played a tight and tidy third period, holding the Jets to just eight shots on net through the first 18 minutes of the frame. With an offensive zone faceoff, Jets head coach Paul Maurice opted to pull his goalie with 2:11 remaining, giving his team a 6-on-5 advantage. Ottawa seemed to have things under control, until Josh Morrissey teed up a one-timer that deflected off Sens defenceman Braydon Coburn and past Matt Murray, tying the game at 3-3 with just 1:17 to play.
With the shots at 40-27 in favour of Ottawa through 60 minutes, it’s clear that the Senators deserved a better fate – but that’s hockey.
We usually see fast-pace, back-and-forth action in 3-on-3 overtime, but this extra frame would be best described as a stalemate with neither team able to register a shot on goal through the first two minutes. Drake Batherson got the first chance of the period, firing a low one-timer from the left circle that was steered away by Brossoit.
The Jets quickly countered up the ice as Morrissey sent a diagonal stretch pass up to Andrew Copp on the right wing, giving Winnipeg a 2-on-1. Copp snapped a hard saucer pass onto the stick of a streaking Ehlers who tapped the puck home past Murray, giving the Jets two points and sending the Senators home with a disappointing defeat.
While the loss will certainly sting for the Sens, it’s all a part of the learning process for a young rebuilding team. On the bright side, they’ve shown the ability to dominate games and hang with playoff contenders early on in this all-Canadian division.
The two teams will be back at it for the second tilt of their three-game series on Thursday night in Ottawa at 7:00 pm, where the Senators will look to quickly avenge Tuesday’s crushing defeat.