Friday evening marked 310 days between games and 316 since the Ottawa Senators last played at the Canadian Tire Centre. But for fans of the team it was well worth the wait – many watching from the comforts of home, saw their team defeat the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-3.
Senators netminder Matt Murray, making his first appearance with the club since being acquired from the Penguins October 7, stopped 20 shots on route to the win.
Keys to victory
There were several performances – individual and team-based that stood out for a Senators’ team that had eight fresh faces in the lineup, including 2020 third overall selection Tim Stützle, and 11 players dressed in total that weren’t on their opening roster last season.
Playing in his 200th regular season game, Murray held the Senators in early – making several key stops including a point-blank save off Auston Matthews during a Maple Leafs power play.
The Senators were outplayed for large portions of the first period, with the team posting only two shots on goal in the first 12 minutes. Despite a goal from Hyman that had to be reviewed for a possible high stick, the 26-year old goalie kept the score at 1-0 until Chabot tied the game – one-timing a pass from Drake Batherson on the power play in the period’s final minute.
Murray once again was forced to hold down the fort in the second stanza, as the Senators posted only one shot on Maple Leafs Frederik Andersen in the first eight minutes. Kerfoot beat him on a screen shot to restore Toronto’s lead. However, Tkachuk tied the game at two 1:13 later, tipping a Nikita Zaitsev shot by Andersen.
Then it was smooth sailing for the Senators from there. The team netted three goals on 4:35 to take a 4-2 lead.
Thanks to a solid defensive effort, Murray faced only 23 shots in total, crediting the work of the Senators newly-formed D-core to keep the majority of Maple Leafs’ shots to the outside.
“I thought the team did a heck of a job keeping the team to the outside for the most part. That’s a dangerous team over there. They have loads of skill,” said the 26-year goalie.
Brady Tkachuk – Josh Norris – Drake Batherson
The trio of Tkachuk-Norris-Batherson was buzzing all night. Batherson and Tkachuk paced the Senators with five shots on goal apiece.
It was Batherson’s cross-ice pass to Chabot on the power play that got the Senators back into the game, tying it at one prior to end of the opening period.
🚨 Thomas Chabot PP
— Here's Your Replay ⬇️ (@HeresYourReplay) January 16, 2021
Batherson appeared confident handling the puck all night, and had a pair of solid scoring opportunities.
After getting his feet wet in three games last season, Norris earned his first two NHL career points, both assists. The 21-year old has already risen up the club’s depth chart to the Senators’ top line and was a fixture on the team’s no.1 PP unit.
And what can you say about Tkachuk? A consummate leader at only 21-years old, the St. Louis resident posted one goal, two assists including the aforementioned game-tying marker in the second period which lead to that three-goal outburst.
Skating with the team after being quarantined until only last Sunday, Stepan provided a spark all game. Starting the game on a line with Stützle and Evgenii Dadonov, Stepan shifted between various trios in the final period.
Named an alternate captain, who’ll don the “A” on home ice, the 11-year veteran put the game out of reach, capitalizing on a T.J. Brodie giveaway to give the Senators a 5-2 lead.
— Here's Your Replay ⬇️ (@HeresYourReplay) January 16, 2021
Stepan’s stat line in his first game as a Senator was impressive. Not only did he score, the centre was 10-4 on draws. Stepan posted six shot attempts and had a 70 percent Corsi rating at even strength. Stepan was on the ice for 19 Senators shot attempts versus only eight against.
Per usual Chabot was a force on the back end – scoring a goal, and was a plus-four. Though head coach D.J. Smith pledged to keep last season’s NHL leader in time-on-ice (26:01 per game) around 24-25 minutes, Chabot played 27:12.
Nikita Zaitsev spent most of the third period paired with Chabot and quietly had a strong game. Zaitsev added two assists, his first multi-point game with the club, playing 21:35.
Erik Gudbranson blocked five shots. While Josh Brown was credited with four hits.
Tkachuk praised the Senators’ d-core as the main reason, the Maple Leafs were limited to only 23 shots, despite possessing five power plays. Mitch Marner and William Nylander failed to get a shot on goal.
“We got some pretty big D back there. They make it tough to get to the net. They’re big, physical guys. They get in the way and limit shots.”
The Senators and Maple Leafs won’t wait too long to continue the Battle of Ontario, as the teams face each other once again in Ottawa Saturday night.
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