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Senators Top Rivalling Maple Leafs in Close Game

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The Battle of Ontario season series concluded with the Ottawa Senators defeating the Toronto Maple Leafs by the score of 5-3 on a Saturday night at Canadian Tire Centre. This was certainly an exciting match-up that saw back-and-forth offensive chances and a lot of heat, especially towards the end. Let’s dive right into this impressive effort by the Senators.

A Team Effort

It was no secret that one of the biggest challenges for the Senators heading into the game was containing Auston Matthews, who is by far the most dangerous scoring threat in the league (from ‘Need a goal to win or tie? Then Maple Leafs star Auston Matthews is your man’, Toronto Star, 2/7/24). With just under four minutes played in the first period, he showed us why he leads the league in goals when he blasted a one-time shot to give the Leafs an early lead.

Matthews wasn’t easy to contain throughout the game either, as he finished with a goal, an assist, and six shots on goal. Ultimately, however, it’s Ottawa that got the last laugh on the score sheet. It started at the end of the first period when Claude Giroux put in his own rebound after a nice save by Martin Jones. 

Claude Giroux, Ottawa Senators (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The second period was the most productive for head coach Jacques Martin’s squad. In this period, Vladimir Tarasenko, Shane Pinto, and Josh Norris scored to send the Senators off with a 4-2 lead to start the third. In the final third of the game, the Senators were able to contain the offensively dynamic Maple Leafs while also creating scoring chances for themselves.

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Overall, the Senators played an extremely solid game against a strong divisional rival. There were some key players in this game worth shouting out, too. But first, I can’t forget to discuss the game’s climax.

A Rowdy Ending

I will start by acknowledging that Ridly Greig played a highly intense game and was rewarded with a goal for it. But he made a decision when scoring it that led him to pay a price. When the Senators cleared the puck with a few seconds left in the game, Greig found himself on a breakaway in front of an empty net. Here, he boldly decided to take a slapshot right in front of the empty cage to seal the deal for his team. 

It would’ve been funny had he missed his shot. But he didn’t. And Morgan Rielly, frustrated about the scoreboard and the lack of penalty calls in his team’s favor, didn’t appreciate the play. Moments after the goal, he came behind Grieg and cross-checked him in the head. Rielly is usually a level-headed player and a leader on his team. But this decision will likely see him getting a hefty suspension in the coming days.

Filling in for Sanderson

When the Senators defeated the Detroit Red Wings in January to start off the All-Star Break, they took a loss in the process. Jake Sanderson left the game with a lower-body injury, which meant that Jakob Chychrun and Thomas Chabot had to step up big. There is no time set for Sanderson’s return, so once again, they had to hold the fort tonight. But tonight, Chabot’s effort is worth mentioning.

Thomas Chabot Ottawa Senators
Thomas Chabot, Ottawa Senators (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

It’s true that he caused the turnover on the Matthews goal when he lost his footing on the boards. But overall, he played an excellent game. Against the Red Wings, he had 30:43 of time on ice. Against the Leafs, the total was 26:01. He finished the game with plus-three, four shots on goal, and two blocked shots. But most importantly, he generated a lot of chances in what was a tremendous offensive effort for the Sens. On defense, he also played well and stood his ground.

But speaking of standing their ground, the other honorable mention who stepped up to fill in for Sanderson was Joonas Korpisalo. He stopped 31 of 34 shots directed toward him and played as well as his team did overall.

The Macklin Celebrini Showdowns

Next week’s schedule will be interesting for the Senators. They play the Columbus Blue Jackets and Anaheim Ducks at home, followed by the Chicago Blackhawks on the road. What do these three teams have in common with the Sens? They all find themselves in the bottom five in the league standings. And at this stage in the season, they probably all want to look ahead and hope to get Macklin Celebrini, who is projected to be the first pick in this year’s NHL Entry Draft.

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This coincidental scheduling could help Martin’s team regain even more confidence and continue their impressive progression. Although the playoffs are distant, the Sens could look to gain some ground and erase the deficit they gave themselves earlier in the season.



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