News

Senators have spunk to spare, erase 3-0 deficit to beat Penguins in OT, make playoff race even tighter

Adam Proteau
By:

The Senators celebrate beating Pittsburgh in overtime as Pens winger Patric Hornqvist skates away. (Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images) Author: The Hockey News

News

Senators have spunk to spare, erase 3-0 deficit to beat Penguins in OT, make playoff race even tighter

Adam Proteau
By:

The Ottawa Senators dug themselves a 3-0 hole against Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins Tuesday before pulling out a big win in overtime to keep their post-season hopes alive – and whether or not they wind up making the playoffs this season, there's a whole lot to like about the Sens team that's emerging.

Ten seconds into their game against the Pittsburgh Penguins Tuesday night, the Ottawa Senators had begun digging themselves a hole. Five minutes after that, they'd made that hole even deeper. And by the end of the opening frame, things looked bleak for them. But in a game that was a near-perfect microcosm of their 2014-15 season, the Sens got stronger as the game went on, got a late-third-period goal to send the contest to extra time, then won it on another goal from star rookie Mark Stone.

At a time when one of Canada's sitting senators, Mike Duffy, is on trial and refusing to go away quietly from a political scandal, the NHL's Senators are doing the same thing (minus the legal proceedings, of course). And although there's still no guarantee Ottawa will secure a post-season berth in their remaining two games, the inspirational play of the Sens since mid-February is a positive harbinger for that franchise's future.

No matter what happens in the next handful of days, it won't affect the fact Ottawa has a bona fide superstar on defense in Norris Trophy candidate Erik Karlsson, and a late-blooming rookie-of-the-year frontrunner in Stone, whose second goal of the night against Pittsburgh was the game-winner and his 24th of the season. With the emergence of Hammond – who stopped 25 of 28 shots to improve his record to 18-1-2 – Sens management will this summer have an asset to move in either Craig Anderson or Robin Lehner, and a chance to use a trade of one of their veteran goalies to address some of the organization's deficiencies. This is important, because it's well-established team owner Eugene Melnyk isn't about to spend to the cap ceiling to plug those holes. In-house development and savvy trades are going to be crucial for them – and fortunately, GM Bryan Murray has more often than not made the most of his draft picks and acquisitions.

To wit: another Sens rookie, 20-year-old pivot Curtis Lazar, was selected 17th overall in 2013. Twenty-one-year-old center Mike Zibanejad is having his best professional season yet, with 20 goals and 46 points in 78 games; left winger Mike Hoffman (who scored the tying goal against Pittsburgh with 1:48 left in the third) was selected by Ottawa in the fifth round (130th overall) and now has a team-best 27 goals this year; veteran sniper Bobby Ryan was acquired for three players who have yet to make the same type of mark; and young star Kyle Turris became a Senator in a wildly lopsided deal that sent blueliner David Rundblad to Arizona.

All of the aforementioned players will be part of the Senators' future for a long time to come. That's as solid a base as you can hope to have in a salary cap world – and with a few notable free agent exceptions (including restricted free agents Hoffman, Stone and Zibanejad, and unrestricted free agent Hammond), they've got most of the roster locked up for at least next season. Their defense corps still leaves something to be desired, but every team in the NHL has issues.

Of course, we shouldn't be looking too far ahead, either, because this season's Senators have truly become one of the most thrilling teams to watch this season. The lowered expectations on them after early-season struggles has seemed to free them, and in the past seven weeks, they've been playing their own brand of playoff hockey just to get the opportunity that is before them. Their shootout loss to the Maple Leafs Sunday took control of their fate out of their control – although they're tied in points with Ottawa, the Bruins now have a game in hand and two more regulation/overtime wins, and the Penguins are one point ahead with three more regulation/OT wins than the Sens – but Ottawa has made a habit of taking a nearly-impossible forecast and bending it to their benefit. They've got to win their last two games (both of them, on the road, in Manhattan and Philadelphia) and their road record of 18-13-8 pales in comparison to their 23-13-5 mark at home. It's not going to be easy, and it might even involve some in-game deficits like the ones the Sens had against the Penguins Tuesday. But would you bet against this bunch now?

If your answer to that is yes, you've clearly not been watching the Ottawa Senators enough.

Comments
Share X
News

Senators have spunk to spare, erase 3-0 deficit to beat Penguins in OT, make playoff race even tighter