Next up: a home matchup with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Avalanche 5, Senators 4
The Ottawa Senators could have used the luck of the Irish on the eve of St. Patrick’s Day.
If the Senators want to continue to play meaningful games in March, they need to find a way to stop the skid they’re after dropping a fourth straight contest 5-4 to the Colorado Avalanche in front of 19,158 at the Canadian Tire Centre on Thursday night.
While captain Brady Tkachuk, Travis Hamonic, Shane Pinto and Drake Batherson did the scoring, it wasn’t enough as the Senators’ chances of making a National Hockey League playoff push continued to slip away after some questionable calls by the on-ice officiating crew.
The Senators came into this game trailing the New York Islanders by eight points for the final wildcard spot in the Eastern Conference, but with three games in hand. They were only four points back before dropping three straight to complete a recent five-game road trip.
The site Moneypuck.com gave the Senators only a 4.4-per-cent chance of making the post-season season heading into this one, so they would pretty much need to run the table in the final 14 games and get some help to make the post-season.
There’s little point in looking at the big picture, though, and all head coach D.J. Smith wanted before the game was to see his club get back to playing better at both ends of the ice. They had given up 25 goals in the previous five games and just weren’t getting the job done.
“We weren’t very good on the road, and not having the last change hurt us quite a bit,” Smith said Thursday morning. “They were able to get their top guys out there a ton against some of our young guys. In saying that, it’s a resilient group.
“If you’d asked eight weeks ago if we could be in this situation, we’d have taken it, so we’ve got to play well. We said how hard March would be. You’ve got nothing but playoff teams ahead of you. That’s a good thing. We’re going to get to play the best and find out where we’re at.”
Alternate captain Thomas Chabot returned to the lineup after missing Tuesday’s 6-3 loss to the Oilers in Edmonton, so Smith changed his defensive pairings. As well, rookie centre Ridly Greig was called up from the American Hockey League affiliate in Belleville to skate on the second forward line.
The Senators pushed to get back into this one in the third period. Tkachuk’s 28th goal of the season, on the power play at 13:18, made it 5-4. Hamonic’s sixth of the season had cut the Avalanche lead to 5-3 with 17:08 remaining.
For a lot of this game, the Senators controlled the pace and created chances on Colorado goalie Jonas Johansson.
The struggles continued for 22-year-old Senators netminder Mads Sogaard, though. The Avalanche scored twice in a span of five minutes late in the second period to take control.
With 1:51 to go, Sogaard was expecting the play to be blown dead because he had covered it, or perhaps on an icing call, but the officials didn’t do either. The puck was sitting in the crease, so you have to give Colorado’s Lars Eller credit for sticking with it and pushing the puck into the net for a 5-2 lead.
Still, a look at the replays sure it made it look as if Sogaard had the puck covered. To make matters worse, that goal turned out to be the winner.
Smith challenged for goalie interference on the play, but the damage had already been done and there was little chance the goal would be overturned.
“Eller was making a play on a loose puck in the crease,” the NHL said in a ruling from its central situation room.
In the third period, the officials were given a Bronx Cheer by fans every time they called icing.
Earlier, Colorado’s Evan Rodrigues beat Sogaard with a shot on the blocker side at 15:17 for a 4-2 advantage.
Only four minutes after Mikko Rantanan extended Colorado’s lead to 3-1 at 4:23 of the second, Pinto scored his 18th of the season at 8:20. He took a pass from Julien Gauthier on a 2-on-1 break and made no mistake in beating Johansson with his shot.
After falling behind 2-0 early in the first, the Senators moved within a goal with 26.7 seconds left in the period, also on a power play. Batherson was able to tip a shot by Johansson to end a nine-game goal drought.
Five minutes into the game, the Senators hadn’t even registered a shot on goal, but the Avalanche had converted chances into a 2-0 lead despite having just six shots to that point. Valeri Nichushkin scored on the power play after Cale Makar opened the scoring at 2:35 with a shot from the right faceoff circle.
The Senators will play host to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday night
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by PostX News and is published from a syndicated feed.)
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