Pretty soon, the Ottawa Senators are going to have to start paying penalty box rent.
The sin bin was home sweet home once again Saturday afternoon, as the Senators took another seven minor penalties, two of which came on the same play at opposite ends of the ice and resulted in a two-minute 5-on-3 in the third period.
The end result, at least in part: A 3-1 score for the visitors that sent a Canadian Tire Centre crowd of 18,623 out into the rain feeling gloomier than when they came in.
It was an eminently winnable game that they ran out of time to take.
And yet, for all that, it’s one the Senators probably won’t lose too much sleep over.
They badly outplayed an Edmonton Oilers team that once again, inexplicably, appears headed for the league basement. The shot count after 60 minutes: 36-21 in favour of the Senators.
But oh those penalties. Whether it’s flash cards, animations, pie charts or just plain old-fashioned yelling, Senators coach Paul MacLean needs to find a way to get the message through that taking bad penalties is bad. Had the Oilers’ power play not been a total disaster, things could have been much worse.
Ottawa’s power play wasn’t great either, going 0-for-5.
Jordan Eberle had a goal and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored twice (once into an open net) for the Oilers, who snapped a five-game losing streak. Struggling netminder Devan Dubnyk overcame a shaky start and stopped 35 shots to pick up his first victory of the season.
Robin Lehner gave Ottawa No. 1 goalie Craig Anderson the afternoon off, making 18 saves in the loss.
Senators grinder Chris Neil made the game interesting with 5:48 remaining thanks to a jam-play goal at the side of the Edmonton net, but that was the beginning and end of the rally.
Dubnyk started the game looking like the worst goalie in the NHL, which he was, statistically speaking. With a 0-4-1 record, 4.91 goals-against average and .854, he’s been the weakest among the weak links on an Oilers team that was 1-6-1 prior to puck drop.
The first shot he faced in the game, a should-have-been harmless slider toward the five-hole, somehow went through his legs and trickled just wide of the net. A point shot shortly thereafter hit him, froze him and rainbowed over the net as he searched for the puck.
Even the volleys he seemed to see right off the Senators’ blades bounced off him in every direction.
Yes, it was a circus around his crease. Until it wasn’t.
Dubnyk seemed to calm down as the period wore on, and he wound up stopping 15 Ottawa shots in the opening frame.
Thing didn’t go as well for Lehner, who ceded two goals on seven shots in the first.
The first was one he’d probably like to have back, though the initial mistake that led to the goal occurred at the opposing blue line. It was there that Jordan Eberle turnstiled Jason Spezza — who was at the point covering for a pinching defenceman — carried the puck into the Ottawa zone and scored on a glove-side deke.
There was little Lehner could do on the second, however, as a blazing shot from embattled Oilers prospect and former No. 1 pick Nail Yakupov caught him high and stunned him. The puck bounced to a wide-open Nugent-Hopkins, who buried an easy one into a wide-open net.
The first could have been much worse, too. Marquee sniper Bobby Ryan went to the dressing room after taking a puck to the leg and struggling to get off the ice.
Fortunately for the Senators, he was back on the ice to start the second.
The Oilers weren’t nearly as lucky on that front. Leading scorer Taylor Hall (eight points) appeared to tweak something after taking a hit from Eric Gryba midway through the second period, but skated off to the penalty to box to serve a penalty he picked up later in the play.
When he skated out for his next shift, however, the tweak took on the look of a major leg injury. He pulled up mid-stride and went straight to the dressing room with help from the trainer.
*Noted: Centre Jean-Gabriel Pageau was a healthy scratch for the first time this season, making way for Binghamton call-up Derek Grant.
WHY THEY LOST
A bit of bad luck, probably. Had they gotten a nice bounce or two against a very vulnerable keeper early, it would have completely changed the complexion of the game. Alas, the Hockey Gods finally decided to give the downtrodden Oil a break.
Devan Dubnyk, Oilers
Game-saving stops included getting a shouler on a wide-open Ryan snapper from the slot early in the game a blocker save on on a Kyle Turris shorthanded blast in the second.
So those bad penalties are still hanging around. It took all of 3:19 for Clarke MacArthur to take the first with a lazy hook in the Ottawa zone.
HE’S A KEEPER
Max Keeping, the former CTV Ottawa anchor and the face of many charitable campaigns here over the years, will never have to hunt for Senators tickets again. Eugene Melnyk, who was in the building Saturday afternoon, thanked Keeping for his service to the city with two lifetime seats in the owner’s luxury suite.