Nick Foligno’s questionable hits were the hot topic of the night, but they shouldn’t deflect from the Ottawa Senators bigger picture issues in Saturday’s angry, oftentimes nasty 4-1 loss to the Vancouver Canucks.
The Senators have lost five of their past six games. If they don’t quickly clean up their defensive errors, continue to take bad penalties and don’t revive slumping power play, they’ll soon be out of the playoff race.
They fell behind 2-0 thanks to the errors and poor discipline. Alex Edler scored on a power play and a 0Ryan Kesler padded the lead on 2-on-1 break. Kesler added a second goal, also on the power play, to make it 3-0. Colin Greening gave the Senators life, scoring late in the second, but they couldn’t dig themselves out of the deep hole, despite a glorious 5-on-3 manpower edge early in the third period.
Dale Weise rounded out the scoring for the Canucks.
“I thought special teams was obviously the difference in the game,” said Senators coach Paul MacLean. “Their power play goes 2 for 4, ours goes 0-for (5), especially with the 5 on 3 opportunity to be in the game.”
The sub-plot was the fireworks stemming from Foligno’s hit to Cody Hodgson’s head late in the first period. With Hodgson falling as he played the puck along the sideboards, Foligno had both hands extended as he hit the Canucks forward. Hodgson stayed down for several seconds and when he jumped up he was wobbling on his skates. Teammates helped him to the bench and he didn’t return.
Foligno, who will no doubt hear from NHL discipline chief Brendan Shanahan with the possibility of a suspension coming, answered for the hit, more than holding his own in a fight with the Canucks’ Dale Weise. In the second period, Foligno received a minor and 10-minute misconduct for hitting Kesler as he was falling along the boards.
“I don’t think there’s anything wrong with either one,” said Foligno. “It’s unfortuante that Hodgson gets hurt. You never want to see that happen, but I’m just going over to finish my check and if he’s not maybe falling forward, it’s nothing, not even a big deal. And with Kesler, I felt he embellished that a little bit and I don’t think I deserved a penalty. I watched the replay and it’s over and done with. I’m more disappointed with the loss.”
The Canucks begged to differ.
“When a guy is low and vulnerable like that, you’re not supposed to drive through and hit them,” said pesky Canucks forward Alex Burrows. “But we made them pay for those penalties.”
The nastiness didn’t end there. The teams exchanged more stickwork and head shots.
Canucks coach Alain Vigneault thought the worst of the lot was a Chris Neil hit on Burrows.
“He tried to take his head off,” said Vigneault. “We’re trying to take those hits out of the game. We’ll see what happens.”
Again, while all of the above made for colourful debates on possible suspensions, the Senators situation doesn’t look good right now. They’re showing their vulnerability without veteran defencemen Filip Kuba and Sergei Gonchar in the lineup.
MacLean isn’t happy with the breakdowns, but he says it’s not all the fault of the blueliners.
“We gave up three 2-on-1′s in the first period, which isn’t’ great,” he said. “But that’s not always the defenceman’s fault. We didn’t have forwards in responsible positions to help them out (when they’re pinching inside the blueline). They have to help the defence, too.”
There are more tough tests ahead. Next up: Buffalo, Pittsburgh and Boston.
WHY THEY LOST: Defensive miscues were everywhere early, leading to a 2-0 deficit and the power play didn’t deliver late. The Senators enjoyed a 5-on-3 early in the third period, but couldn’t get sustained pressure on Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo.
STUD: Ryan Kesler, Canucks. He scored twice and, as usual, was a pest to play against.
DUD: Senators power play. Does anyone remember when the unit could do no wrong at the start of the season? Now, nothing is going right with the man advantage.
MEMORIES: Paul Henderson, one of Canada’s greatest hockey heroes, dropped the puck before the game. In a sign of how the game has changed since that glorious moment in the 1972 Summit series, the captains of the two Canadian teams are both Swedish: the Senators’ Daniel Alfredsson and the Canucks’ Henrik Sedin.