by Chet Sellers
Hey folks! Hope you've been having relaxing holidays so far; I ate so much fruitcake I had to have my stomach pumped, but I'm out of the woods now and ready to recap! You know who lives in the woods? Bears! Another word for bears? Bruins! It's all coming together!
That's right, the Senators are ready to end their holiday layoff tonight with a home game against the Bruins, and what we're all wondering is whether they'll be able to pick up where they left off after their last game, a 5-0 shutout against the Penguins! Hang on a second, folks, one of our RBM interns is handing me a note . . . seriously? The Sens and Bruins already played last night? And the Bruins won 5-0? Are you sure you don't mean the game we beat the Penguins 5-0? You don't. Huh.
Well folks, it looks like tonight's game is the second half of a back-to-back with the Bruins, and tonight the Senators are looking to keep last night's turd salad from becoming a full turd salad bar with all the fixin's. Will they do it? Let's find out!
Hey, a few lineup notes before we get going - Jason Spezza and Chris Phillips are both out for the Senators, Phillips with a bruised foot and Spezza with a "lower body injury". Senators fans wince reflexively, as "lower body" for Spezza usually doesn't mean any specific area, but "all of it". At the same time, the Bruins are missing their top defense pairing, as Zdeno Chara is out with the flu and Dennis Seidenberg has become the second player in two games to lose precious knee ligaments to the Senators attack. "Hate to see that, but it's the luck of the draw," says Paul MacLean, keeping Erik Karlsson packed in impact-dampening styrofoam peanuts before he takes the ice.
So who's the captain for the Senators? As it turns out, nobody! There's some pre-game scuttlebutt that Kyle Turris will get the "C", but evidently Paul MacLean is reluctant to upset the last alternate captain standing, Chris Neil, and so Turris gets an "A". Chris Neil also keeps his "A", as it turns out giving him a "C" is a violation of the Geneva Conventions.
Seven minutes in, Patrick Wiercioch opens the scoring with a wrist shot from a Cory Conacher feed that makes it 1-0 Senators. Wiercioch, nominally a "puck-moving defenseman", has been scratched for four straight games as trade rumours have swirled about the team acquiring Michael Del Zotto. "More like Del Notto!" Wiercioch says as he skates back to the bench. Colin Greening forces a chuckle and grips his stick a little tighter.
Five minutes later, Daniel Paille pokes a puck off the boards and past Erik Karlsson, then takes a breakaway into the Senators zone and puts a goal between Craig Anderson's legs, making it 1-1."Two wrongs don't make a right, fellas," says Paul MacLean, tousling Karlsson's hair. Everybody laughs except Colin Greening.
Near the end of the third, though, it's Cory Conacher again, tipping in a Cody Ceci point shot to make it 2-1 Senators. With Wiercioch and Conacher, two players in and out of the lineup all year, getting on the scoresheet early, it's almost like everyone expected to contribute this season is securing a place on the roster. "Sounds good," says Colin Greening, doing pushups in the hallway as the period ends.
Hey, guess what? Less than a minute into the third, Zack Smith and Erik Condra turn a Joe Corvo holding penalty into a 2-on-1 breakaway and a shorthanded goal! 3-1 Senators. Tuukka Rask is chased from the Bruins net after giving up three goals on 12 shots in a performance that Craig Anderson describes as "not that bad".
As solid as Anderson has been tonight, though, halfway through the second it's Jarome Iginla who pulls the Bruins within one after beating Anderson with a backdoor play a second after the Bruins come off the power play, making it 3-2 Senators. "It's good to see a legendary player achieve success after amicably cutting ties with the only franchise they've ever played for," say Senators fans, absent-mindedly biting their knuckles until they draw blood.
Six minutes in, fill-in defenseman David Warsofsky scores his first career goal to make it 3-3. Who? Whatever.
Four minutes later, a Bruins odd-man rush leads to a Jarome Iginla kick-in that appears to make it 4-3 Bruins until the referees call it back. "You went full kick," Mika Zibanejad says from the bench. "Never go full kick." Habs fans instinctively curse a blue streak even though they're not watching the game.
It's looking like another third period collapse by the Senators . . . or is it? With five to go, Bobby Ryan pokes a puck loose at his own blue line and chases it into a breakaway on the Bruins net, which he turns into a backhand cheese-sauce bar-towel twine-bulger highlight-reel goal! 4-3 Senators. Ryan buzzes the Senators bench on the way back, which causes Paul MacLean to spill an entire cup of coffee. Sorry about your ice time on Monday, Bobby!
With two minutes to go, Zack Smith takes a minor for the regularly-enforced hand pass penalty, which puts the Bruins on a 6-on-4 power play for the final two minutes. The Senators kill it off like it's 2013 (the first half, anyway) with a mix of blocked shots and timely saves. 4-3 Senators is your final!
Folks, I went to a state school and I'm not much for math, but I'm pretty sure tonight's game is the first second-half of a back-to-back that the Senators have won in regulation this season. So that's a thing. Also a thing is the fact that the Senators have now played 41 games, which is exactly 50% of the schedule. They reach the halfway mark under .500, but showing signs of progress - wins against good teams (Boston, Pittsburgh); solid performances from Craig Anderson; secondary scoring; defensive competence. One thing they still haven't done in almost a month and a half? Win two in a row. Will they do that Monday against the Capitals? Will Colin Greening still be on the roster? Tune in and find out!