Game Summary - Game 29: Senators @ Lightning - Going Back to Tampa

by Chet Sellers

Tampa. For as long as Ottawa has had a hockey team, Tampa has been its evil twin. Like Romulus and Remus, the Senators and Lightning were born out of the mists of expansion, raised at the teats of wolves, and eventually fell into a bitter dispute of cities destined to end in murder. Like any ancient tragedy, the story of Ottawa and Tampa is one of bloodshed, vengeance, and betrayal, with both sides lurching toward a senseless, unavoidable conclusion.

Tampa. The city so rough it makes Cartagena look like Calgary. The city so mean it turns even the most neighbourly disagreement into a vicious, generational blood feud. Few know that "Going Back to Cali", the Notorious B.I.G.'s ode to the East Coast-West Coast rap war, was originally called "Going Back to Tampa" until Sean Combs declared it "too raw for even the 90s."

The Tampa Bay Lightning enjoy a day off.
Tampa. Whisper it, like a terrible, secret prayer.

It's fitting that if the Senators are going to start turning their season around, they're going to have to start in the darkest, most forbidding place imaginable . . . Tampa. Against that grim backdrop, can the Senators beat the Lightning tonight and make it two in a row? Let's find out!

First Period

Based on that intro, you probably expected a drag-out, bare-knuckle street fight to start the game . . . and you got one! It's okay if it's between punch-drunk, uncoordinated fighters, right? Most of the first period is characterized by offensive futility and sloppy hockey - off-kilter power plays, neutral zone turnovers, open-ice wipeouts, and missed shots. It looks a lot like a Timbits game during a Canadian Tire Centre intermission, the difference being that no one would believe a player as small as Cory Conacher in a Timbits game.

With three minutes to go, though, somebody's finally shoots a puck doesn't miss! Can you guess which team probably scored first? If you've watched Ottawa Senators hockey this year, you probably can - Martin St. Louis capitalizes on a Jared Cowen turnover and turns a breakaway into a blocked shot that turns into a feed from behind the net that's buried by, you guessed it, Martin St. Louis. 1-0 Lightning. Delirious Tampa fans fire pistols and rifles into the rafters, bullets tearing through the team's already-shredded 2004 Stanley Cup banner.

Not a great first period for Ottawa. On the positive side, the Senators held the Lightning to five shots, put a handful of quality shots on ex-Senator and Cory Conacher-dwarfer Ben Bishop, and managed not to be assaulted or killed by any of the Lightning or their savage, animalistic central Florida fans. Can they keep it up?

Second Period

Six minutes into the first, after Keith Aulie has gone off on an interference penalty to put the Senators on the power play, Kyle Turris wins a faceoff in the offensive zone and sends a Burnaby bullet to Patrick Wiercioch, who spins, fires, and rings a wrist shot off the post and past Ben Bishop. 1-1. It's a lucky goal for Wiercioch, but just the kind of break that can turn his season around. Expect Wiercioch to demonstrate that new-found confidence as early as Saturday, swaggering into the press box after Paul MacLean replaces him with Eric Gryba again.

With seven to go in the period, though, it's St. Louis who gets loose again and causes havoc for the Senators. It's easy to lose track of the tiny St. Louis, all tucked away down there, but the Senators still need to do better than letting him carry it in, chase a rebound into the corner, and scramble back in front of the crease to bury another pass from behind the net. 2-1 Lightning. "Who run Bartertown?" St. Louis asks the screaming, barbaric Tampa fans as he rides B.J. Crombeen's shoulders back to the Lightning bench.

And that's it for the period. Through two, the Senators, on the whole, have been the better team everywhere but the scoreboard, winning more faceoffs, drawing more penalties, and taking more shots than the Lightning. At an individual level, though, they haven't been able to beat Bishop and they haven't been able to contain St. Louis, and that's why they're trailing. Will the Senators muster the energy in the third period to not only come back from a deficit, but also fight their way out of the building after?

Third Period

No. Despite playing a strong first two periods, the Senators come out flat in the third and can't put any pressure on the Lightning. Eleven minutes in, Valeri Filppula takes the puck behind his own blue line and carries it the length of the ice, beating Chris Phillips and Jason Spezza in the process before putting it over a diving Patrick Wiercioch and into the net. 3-1 Lightning. You know how a period is 20 minutes long, and this is the only event worth mentioning? Yeah.

Game Summary

As is Tampa tradition, the winner takes its bloody tribute from the loser. Craig Anderson starts Saturday.
They say that after 30 games you are what you are, and with only a game to go before that benchmark, the Senators are inconsistent, aimless, and sloppy. Even a win against the Leafs on Saturday probably won't change that assessment much - as tonight's game proved, the Senators' goaltending is still up-and-down, the Senators' defense is still down-and-out, and Ben Bishop is still nine inches taller than Cory Conacher. Are there any silver linings for Sens fans, either tonight or looking toward the rest of the season? Well, the Senators escaped the violent, war-torn hellhole of Tampa in one piece tonight, and so far this year, that's good enough. See you Saturday!
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