What Happened Out West?

“All you can do is keep working. We’ll be happy to get home. We’ll get Gaudette, Batherson, some help, we’ll get some fresh guys, and get back to work.” That was Senators head coach DJ Smith following their 4-2 loss to the Kings on Saturday night. Their 4th loss of the 4-game road trip.

Ottawa returned home with 0 points. They were outscored 21-10, their high priced-veteran goaltender was sent to Belleville and the team sits dead last (32nd) in the NHL. After the NHL forced them to take a week off, looking to control the Sens COVID outbreak, this road trip was supposed to be the reset button the team needed. The opposite happened.

It started with a 7-5 loss to the Colorado Avalanche last Monday. Ottawa gave up a goal just 50 seconds into the game, surrendered 2 separate leads in the 3rd period, and let Filip Gustavsson face 39 shots. The Sens wasted a Zach Sanford hat-trick, Thomas Chabot played just under 32 minutes, and it was a loss deemed ‘unacceptable’ by DJ Smith. Chabot also agreed, saying: “That one hurt.”

Their next outing, 2 days later, saw a 6-3 loss to the San Jose Sharks. “The difference tonight is probably their goaltending.” DJ made sure he let Matt Murray know his play has been well below expectations. It was likely the Tomas Hertl goal 47 seconds into the 2nd period that sparked DJ into calling out his goaltending. Hertl’s goal gave the Sharks a 2-1 lead. Ottawa would score a pair to make it 3-2 before giving up a power-play goal late in the 2nd period. San Jose went on to score 3 goals in the 3rd period, breaking the tie and securing the victory. Ottawa’s power-play went 0/4 on the night while Matt Murray allowed 4 goals on 27 shots. His record fell to 0-5-0 with a 3.26 GAA and .890 save %.

On Friday, Ottawa got shutout 4-0 in a loss to the Ducks. Following DJ Smith’s shot to his goaltenders, Matt Murray was scratched, Anton Forsberg would start, and Gustavsson served as the backup. It didn’t take long for rumours to circulate that the Sens were planning to place Murray on waivers the next day. “We’re a fragile group,” Sens head coach DJ Smith said after getting blanked by Anaheim. From Chris Tierney hitting the post in the 2nd period to Brady Tkachuk’s goal in the third being waved off, it was a night to forget. Forsberg allowed 3 goals on 25 shots and once again the power-play was 0/4.

Leading into the 4th game of the Sens road trip, Matt Murray would be placed on waivers. Filip Gustavsson got the start against the Kings and was the main reason it was 1-1 after 20 minutes. Ottawa gave up 20 of the 37 shots against in the first period, Gustavsson made 33 saves on 36 attempts in the 4-2 loss.  “We just have to be detailed, hard, and stick together,” said forward Nick Paul after the game. Michael Del Zotto scored his 2nd of the season, after being a scratch in the previous 2 games, and Connor Brown buried his 4th. The main talking point following this loss was Kings forward, Brendan Lemieux, biting Brady Tkachuk. The two got involved in a wrestling match following a Gustavsson save and while they were on the ice trying to be separated by officials, Lemieux bit Tkachuk’s hand.

You can see in the video above, Brady’s bloody hand as he skates to the penalty box, informing the officials he had been bitten. “It was the most gutless thing somebody could ever do,” Tkachuk said post-game. Lemieux will have an in-person meeting with the NHL via zoom tomorrow for biting Tkachuk.

The team came away with just 1 win in November, have a 1-9 record in their last 10 games, and just 9 points on the season. The Sens are back at the Canadian Tire Centre on Wednesday for a meeting with the Canucks. The expectation is that their leading scorer, Drake Batherson, will return from the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol for that game. Ottawa officially sent Matt Murray to Belleville, hoping he can find his game in the AHL.

Until then, here’s Gilbert Godfrey narrating Brady Tkachuk’s post-game comments on Brendan Lemieux:


By Steve Bunda




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