The Ottawa Senators defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-2 bringing a quick end to the Bolts high from beating the Toronto Maple Leafs 7-3 on Thursday. As good as the Lightning looked in that game against another good team, the Lightning looked just as bad tonight against a bad team.
To bring the pain of this loss to a crescendo, former Lightning forward Vladislav Namestnikov scored the game winner and the empty netter to put the game away for good. Having just been acquired by Ottawa after an unsuccessful stint with the Rangers, those goals against the team that traded him in the midst of a career best season must have been extra sweet for Vladdy.
If anyone thought one good game against the defensively porous Leafs was enough to signal the end of the poor play that plagued the Lightning against the Carolina Hurricanes last weekend, the first period of this game dispelled those notions. The Lightning got steamrolled by one of the worst teams in the league through the first twenty minutes.
The Sens started strong creating multiple chances in the first couple minutes. The first one came on a deflected shot from Mark Borowiecki that clanged off the crossbar in the first minute. The next glaring opportunity fell in Bobby Ryan’s lap after a terrible turnover by Kevin Shattenkirk. The pairing of Shattenkirk and Braydon Coburn struggled mightily to recover the puck and exit the zone on that shift, which would be a theme this afternoon.
About five minutes into the game, Yanni Gourde and Dylan DeMelo dropped the gloves but fell to the ice before any punches landed. In the ensuing five minutes, the Lightning played their best hockey of the period. It started with a good shift from the top line that got the team going. After that, the third line with Carter Verhaeghe joining Mathieu Joseph and Tyler Johnson had two excellent shifts. Verhaeghe looked at home further up the lineup creating the best chance of the period for Tampa Bay on a slick pass to Joseph that led to a golden rebound chance for Johnson. Unfortunately, he fired it over the net.
With ten minutes left in the period, the Lightning got the first of two consecutive penalties thanks to Sens forward Scott Sabourin. First, he took a holding penalty for bear hugging Shattenkirk. And immediately after he got out of the box, he tried to attack the net but crashed clumsily into Curtis McElhinney earning a goaltender interference penalty.
The Lightning weren’t able to do much with either power play. The first unit had a decent stretch on the second power play but never really threatened the way we’ve come to expect from that group.
From that point forward, the Sens dominated. They didn’t always get dangerous chances but they did create lots of shots and push pressure on McElhinney to make saves. Artem Animisov fired a shot off the post with three minutes left in the period. The Sens then drew a penalty on Ondrej Palat with 90 seconds to go. The Bolts survived that stretch of the penalty but headed into the second period having clearly been outplayed in the first.
After the first period, Ottawa had a slight lead in shots but a big lead in expected goals.
The second period was better than the first for the Lightning as they evened up the shot metrics. But they still came out on the wrong end of the goal scoring. To start, they killed the remainder of the Sens penalty from the first. They then went on a power play of their own a little less than two minutes into the period.
Again, the power play was just ok. The first unit created one pretty chance on a passing sequence from Steven Stamkos to Brayden Point to Kucherov but the Lightning star winger couldn’t hit the net. After that chance, the second best scoring opportunity of that stretch came to Anthony Duclair of the Sens on a shorthanded counter attack. He got loose and was 1v1 with McElhinney but missed the net.
After less than a minute at 5v5, the Lightning took a too many men penalty. This is the second time in four games they’ve been caught in a sloppy line shift. The Sens threatened including one chance that looked like a certain goal but none of the forwards in front of the net managed to get a stick on a pretty back door pass from Duclair.
With 30 seconds left in the penalty, Erik Cernak compounded things by playing the puck with his hand giving the Sens some 5 on 3 time. The Lightning sent out Victor Hedman, Ryan McDonagh, and Yanni Gourde to kill the penalty. They did well enough with some help from a slick poke check by Curtis McElhinney on Colin White in front of the net.
Just like the Sens before them, the Lightning got a good shorthanded chance. Mathieu Joseph created it with hard work and forechecking. He eventually fed a pass to Ondrej Palat who couldn’t quite beat Craig Anderson. Ottawa responded with one final chance on the power play but McElhinney made the save on a deflection from Bobby Ryan.
With a little under 11 minutes left in the period, Brayden Point got into a scrap with Jean-Gabrieal Pageau. While I guess some would like to see the fire and frustration from Point, having him out of the lineup for at least five minutes is always going to be a net negative for the Lightning.
Ottawa opened the scoring a few minutes later as White finished a pass on a 2 on 1 chance from Matthew Tkachuk. Braydon Coburn was back but couldn’t disrupt the play. Shattenkirk was responsible for giving up the odd numbered rush. The former Rangers defender is having a rough start to the season defensively and he got burned on this one.
The Lightning responded quickly with a goal from Palat. Johnson slid him a pass across the slot and the Lightning winger banged it home to even the score. After a rough season in 2018-2019, Palat has three goals through four games to start this campaign.
Johnson got a chance of his own to give the Lightning the lead with three minutes left in the period but missed the net. Ottawa got a chance with 30 seconds left and they didn’t miss. Pageau received a pass from Duclair at the back door, slid below the goal line with puck, and bounced it off the back of McElhinney’s pads into the net.
At the end of the second, the Lightning had a slight lead in shots but the Sens still led by a small margin in expected goals.
The Lightning got the third period they deserved as a former teammate sunk in the dagger to add a little lemon juice to the paper cut of losing this game. The period started slowly with the Sens looking to protect the lead and the Lightning struggling to break through and create chances.
That changed about five minutes into the period as Kucherov got loose on the left side of the slot but again, couldn’t hit the net. After that chance, the game opened up. Ottawa got the next chance as Ryan caught Alex Killorn sleeping and received a pass in the slot but couldn’t beat McElhinney. The Sens followed that with another chance as Namestnikov corralled a rebound and nearly extended the lead.
The Lightning tied the game with 11 minutes left as Luke Witkowski of all people scored on a wrister from the left slot. Pat Maroon had attracted two Senators defenders and slid a pass to a wide open Witkowski who looked as surprised as everyone else when the shot beat Anderson.
Shortly after the goal, Witko returned to form taking a cross checking penalty finishing a check behind the net. But Ottawa couldn’t take advantage because Brady Tkachuk took a tripping penalty just 20 seconds later to negate almost the entire penalty.
During the 4 on 4, the Lightning briefly appeared to take the lead on a goal from Kucherov cruising down through the slot and ripping one past Anderson. But the replay clearly showed interference from Mikhail Sergachev and the refs rightly called off the goal without the need for replay.
A couple minutes later, Namestnikov succeeded in what he failed to do earlier giving his new team the lead with about three minutes left to play. He skated in on a 2 on 1 with Connor Brown. Cernak was back but dropped to the ice inexplicably early giving Brown an easy passing lane and Vladdy buried the shot. He iced the game with an empty net goal with under a minute left.
At the end of the game, the Sens led in shots and had a dominant lead in expected goals.
The Carolina game was a flashpoint because of how dominant the Canes were. But this was almost as bad for Tampa Bay. The Senators are not a good team but they looked better than the Lightning all night. Through five games, this makes two no shows for the Bolts, which isn’t a great ratio.
The team said all the right things after getting housed by Carolina and then came out and walked the walk against Toronto. They could not sustain that level of play against the lowly Senators and suffered their third loss of the season.
Their next chance to redeem themselves will come Tuesday in Montreal against the Canadiens. Expect to hear them talk the talk over the next few days. But it’s anyone’s guess what kind of team shows up on the ice come game time.