Ottawa - December 8, 2011 - For the second time in four games the Ottawa Senators collapsed late in the third period to lose a game they were leading. Last Thursday the Ottawa Senators gave up two late third period goals to lose to the Dallas Stars. Tonight, the Senators gave up four third period goals to the Washington Capitals to lose the game 5-3. The Senators led the game 2-1 with a little over ten minutes left when the game started to unravel for them.
For the second game in a row, Erik Karlsson made a critical mistake in the third period. On monday night the Senators managed to bounce back after Karlsson coughed up the puck at the blue-line to Vinny Lecavalier who sent Martin St. Louis in all alone to put the Tampa Bay Lightning ahead 2-1.
Tonight, Karlsson made not one but two critical errors which put the Senators behind and eventually lost them the game. The first mistake was a needless penalty that Karlsson took for hooking Alexander Ovechkin of the Capitals. With just over 11 minutes remaining in the game and the Senators clinging to a one goal lead, Karlsson coughed up the puck on the boards to Ovechkin and then compounded the mistake by tripping Ovechkin by not only putting his stick between Ovechkin’s legs but also by sticking his skate out and clipping him. The result was a two-minute penalty which Nicklas Backstrom scored on to tie the game at two. Once Karlsson, coughed up the puck all he had to do was move his feet and step in front of Ovechkin to hit him and stop his progress.
The second critical mistake led to Ovechkin’s ninth goal of the year which put the Capitals in front to stay. Playing 4-on-4, Ovechkin flew down the side boards right past Karlsson who chased him around the net. Once on the far end of the ice, Ovechkin changed his route, left Karlsson in his shadow and scored the go ahead goal. The mistake Karlsson made was letting Ovechkin blow by him in the first place. Now I know Ovechkin isn’t an easy player to hit, and lots of players have looked stupid missing him, but if there was ever a good time to take a hit that was there, that was the opportunity. Karlsson not only was ahead of Ovechkin, but he had the angle on him and there was only a limited amount of space where Ovechkin could go. All Karlsson had to do, was to take one step to his right and he would’ve creamed Ovechkin into the boards. Actually, I’ve never seen Ovechkin primed for a hit. My thought is Ovechkin must’ve known Karlsson wasn’t going to cream him into the boards and that’s not a good sign.
Karlsson is still very young and offensive ability is excellent. His stick handling, skating speed and vision are great. However, although he leads NHL defenseman in points, Karlsson is a defensive liability. His lack of size and toughness makes the Senators vulnerable late in a game when they are holding onto a lead.
For the first half of the game the Senators were actually pretty poor. At one point the Senators were outshot 25-15, including 15-6 in the first period. Although, a bunch of those shots came on a 5-on-3 for the Capitals, the Senators had a hard time reaching the intensity of the Capitals. Most of the first half of the game was spent in the Senators end.
The Capitals forecheck kept the Senators hemmed up in their own zone and when they were able to move the puck, the defense often turned the puck over at the blue-line. It wasn’t until Erik Condra scored midway through the second period to tie the game at one, that the Senators started to take control, eventually ending the period ahead 2-1.
Perhaps with the way the Senators played the first half of the game they didn’t deserve to win. Still it’s disappointing when you lose a game in the last 10 minutes when you were leading to start the third period.
Craig Anderson played a solid game. He made two key stops on Ovechkin before he scored and generally held the Senators in the first half of the game. Anderson could not be blamed for any of the Capitals goals.
Colin Greening did a great job fighting for the puck when the Senators were on the power play late in the game and down 4-2. His hustle, and willingness to fight for the puck caused a turnover which led to the Milan Michalek goal.
I like watching Paul MacLean coach. He’s constantly talking to the player’s and using the board to illustrate what he means. He even goes down to the defense to instruct his young defenseman. I find this a nice change to the style of Jacques Martin when he was here and who is now in Montreal.
Tomorrow night will be the Senators third game in four nights so I don’t expect much out of them.