Game Summary - Game 13: Islanders vs. Senators - Dream of Kanatransmutation
by Chet Sellers
Folks, my Word-of-the-Day calendar says today is November 1, which means it's time to "transmute" (verb; "change in form, nature, or substance") the page on a fairly dismal October for the Ottawa Senators. Tonight we bid adieu to Western Conference powerhouses and begin a long stretch of games against mostly-unimpressive Eastern Conference teams, starting with the New York Islanders.
Like Ottawa, the Islanders have a losing record so far this year; unlike Ottawa, they've already started to shake things up, recently trading Matt Moulson to hockey gulag Buffalo for winger Tomas Vanek. The Senators, meanwhile, will shake things up by starting the game with the Halloween franken-lines from yesterday's practice. That means Jason Spezza is either a third-line centre or Chris Neil is a first-line winger, but hey, stranger pairings have worked before.
Will the shake-up work? Can the Senators capitalize at home against a middling Islanders squad and turn their fortunes around in what already feels like a must-win game? Is tonight the night they begin to transmute October's failure into November's success? Let's find out!
After an emotional Peter Regin homecoming ceremony (large blinking sign: SATIRE), the Senators come out firing in the first and generate pressure deep in the offensive zone, forcing the Islanders to start backchecking heavily. "This could be a fun night, physically," says Denis Potvin.
Besides their new-look lines, the other obvious change from the Senators is their surprisingly-quick sprouting of Movember mustaches. Cory Conacher already has a biker-style horseshoe mustache, Chris Phillips has something that looks like what Paul MacLean sported for most of the 80s, and Eric Gryba has a mustache that could best be described as "the Johnnycakes". It's also only November 1, which probably means none of these guys shaved this morning like they were supposed to. This is the kind of close-to-the-edge, rule-bending play that got Chris Neil promoted to the first line.
Chris Neil, incidentally, has not been shuffled through Paul MacLean's stunt line combinations and is still playing with Spezza throughout the first period. Five minutes in, Denis Potvin declares the Senators key to the game to be "simplicity". Jason Spezza, looking for anyone to pass to, considers storming the booth to disagree. Shortly thereafter, Erik Condra goes after the puck into an empty corner and wipes out on Matt Donovan's abandoned stick, proving the only thing that gets by Condra is an open net (large blinking sign: DRAMATIC IRONY).
Condra's wipeout seems to be all the motivation the Islanders need, as they start forcing the Senators back on their heels, which in turn requires Robin Lehner to start standing on his head to stop shots, including a dangerous Michael Grabner short-handed breakaway. With eight minutes to go, the Islanders are outshooting the Senators 13-5, but are unable to transmute any of those shots into goals.
As Lehner keeps the Senators in the game, with a little over a minute to go in the third, Erik Condra - yes, that Erik Condra - retrieves a loose puck at the blue line and snaps it past Evgeni Nabokov to make it 1-0. It's later revealed that Condra pulled a leg muscle on the play and will not return. As they say, God doesn't open a door without closing a window on Erik Condra's leg.
A minute later, Mika Zibanejad transmutes an Erik Karlsson assist to make it 2-0. The Senators go into the intermission up two goals despite being outshot 18-9. During the break, Clarke MacArthur imparts everything he learned about being in these types of situations from his time playing for the Leafs. "Just try not to think about it, guys."
The Senators come out a little stronger to start the second and settle into a back-and-forth-and-forth routine with the Islanders, with Lehner continuing his solid play as the Islanders progressively outshoot Ottawa. After stopping a total of 32 shots after eleven minutes, however, Lehner finally lets one in from John Tavares, and 30 seconds later, Matt Martin makes it 2-2. Almost without warning, two quick goals from the Islanders have silenced the half-empty, tomb-like Canadian Tire Centre. Can anyone transmute the bad vibes?
Well, Bobby Ryan can, as he buries a rebound following Karlsson and Wiercioch point shots with eight to go in the period. Clarke MacArthur - yes, that Clarke MacArthur - follows two minutes later with a wraparound goal that the referees need to review in order to confirm that Clarke MacArthur - yes, that Clarke MacArthur - actually scored his first goal of the season. 4-2 Senators.
With three to go in the second, Zack Smith and Cal Clutterbuck both draw minor penalties, Smith for roughing and Clutterbuck for diving, transmuting the game into 4-on-4 play. Before the referees can explain how both penalties can happen at the same time, Pierre-Marc Bouchard scores for the Islanders to make it 4-3. Not great, Senators fans admit as they open another beer, but it's not like this team is going to choke away a 4-2 lead two games in a row.
Not so fast, say the Senators - if you think you've seen us get outshot and spend a game shorthanded, you ain't seen nothin' yet. Zack Smith takes an interference penalty while leaving the box and goes right back in for another two minutes. Jared Cowen joins him for holding seven seconds later, and the Islanders are on a near-two-minute 5-on-3. All of a sudden, the whole tone of the game has been transmuted. The Senators are able to kill off 56 seconds of shorthanded time before the period ends, but the Islanders still have 43 shots after two periods, and on his way down the tunnel into the dressing room, Robin Lehner sticks his head into the puck-firing machine, just to get ready for the third.
The Senators actually come out and manage to kill off the rest of the 5-on-3, proving that they're able to kill more than just hope. Before anyone can relax, though, Franz Nielsen ties the game three minutes in, showing once again that a 4-2 lead is the most dangerous lead in hockey when you have no defense.
There's no more scoring during the third period. There is momentum. Can you recognize momentum when you see it? You know the last hour of Titanic, where the boat starts going over, and then she goes over? That's momentum. That's the third period of this hockey game. Robin Lehner ends the third having stopped 49 of 53 shots. This is more or less the kind of stout performance Lehner was forced to provide during the west coast road trip, which underlines the fact that so far the Senators have transmuted nothing.
The Senators generate solid pressure during 4-on-4 play but can't convert. During the shootout, Franz Nielsen scores for the Islanders and Spezza, Michalek, and Bobby Ryan are all stopped by Nabokov; final score is 5-4 Islanders. The Senators end the game with a single point and a -26 shot differential. Paul MacLean calls it a good effort; Robin Lehner calls it another successful hunt, all things considered; Jason Spezza takes out a restraining order against Chris Neil. On the way out, disappointed fans line up to transmute their beers before sitting in the parking lot. See you Sunday, folks.