OTTAWA — The Ottawa Senators will go all the way to the end of the 48-game regular season Sunday against the Boston Bruins before finally knowing their playoff opponent.
While the Senators 2-1 loss against the Philadelphia Flyers Saturday cleared up a few scenarios –including the fact Ottawa can’t finish any better than seventh in the Eastern Conference and won’t face the Washington Capitals in a first-round Stanley Cup match-up – the opponents in the first round playoff series are still very much up in the air.
They could still face either Boston, the Montreal Canadiens or the Pittsburgh Penguins, depending on the result Sunday.
- If the Senators win against Boston they will play Montreal.
- If the Senators lose in regulation time, they will play Pittsburgh.
- If the Senators lose in either overtime or a shootout, they will play Boston.
So, basically it’s as clear as mud. The only thing that has been ironed out in the Eastern Conference is that Washington will face the New York Rangers.
The biggest implication from Saturday’s defeat to the Flyers is that the Senators blew a shot at avoiding high-powered Pittsburgh, widely considered to be the class of the East.
The Senators needed only one point Saturday to accomplish that, but couldn’t get it done.
Despite the fact Ottawa carried the play for long portions of the night, they couldn’t finish off the Flyers, a team that had nothing to play for other than pride.
Jakub Voracek broke the 1-1 tie, beating Senators goaltender Craig Anderson with 9:58 remaining. While the Senators pushed and pushed in the final five minutes, they couldn’t beat Flyers goaltender Steve Mason to tie the game.
The Senators ended up outshooting the Flyers 44-25, but coach Paul MacLean stressed the negatives.
“It’s the third time we’ve lost at home in our last three games,” he said. “There are some positives there, but the shots flattered us a little bit, but we flat out didn’t play hard enough to win the game.”
Considering the importance of Sunday’s game, it will be intriguing to see whether MacLean opts to play his best lineup or rest key players against the Bruins.
“We’re going to play the best team we can, that gives us the best chance to win the game,” he said.
Defenceman Erik Karlsson, who once again led the team with 27:46 in ice time in his second game back from Achilles surgery and had seven shots on goal, did his best to find a bright light from the defeat.
“We put a lot of pucks on the net, we got some good quality chances,” Karlsson. “Their goalie stood on his head, made some huge stops and we just couldn’t figure out how to get the puck in the net.”
Karlsson suggested the most important thing the Senators need to establish Sunday is “about getting the feeling back in the dressing room of playing good hockey”, regardless of the result.
Anderson says scoring one goal every night isn’t enough.
“We have to have a winning atmosphere and in order to do that, we’re going to need to score more than one goal,” he said. “Right now, that’s kind of the way it’s going. We’re generating a lot of chances, but we’re just not able to bury them in the back of the net and hopefully that’s going to turn for us.”
Milan Michalek was among those who came close.
Following a pretty set up from Erik Karlsson with five minutes remaining, Mason made a great stop. Early in the third period, he hit the post. Karlsson also hit the post in the first period.
Kyle Turris tied the game 4:35 into the second period. It was a much needed goal for Turris, his first point in four games. The assist from Phillips was also the 200th of his career.
Jason Akeson opened the scoring for the Flyers at the 3:46 mark of the first period.
It was the first NHL game – in fact, the first NHL shot – for Akeson, who grew up in Orleans and dreamed of big-league stardom while attending games at Scotiabank Place as a child.
After a loose puck jumped over Karlsson’s stick, Akeson delivered, beating Anderson with a shot off the post.
CHEERS: Steve Mason, Flyers. At least Philadelphia got great goaltending in its final game of the year. Mason stopped 43 shots, outstanding as the Seantors pressed in the final minutes.
JEERS: Milan Michalek, Senators: He needs to bury his chances. Mason stoned him with 5:20 left and early in the period, Michalek hit the post from in close.
WHY THEY LOST: Mason. And more Mason.
NORDIQUES NATION MAKES NOISE: The group of passionate fans pushing for the NHL to return to Quebec were out in full force at Scotiabank Place, chanting together at well-orchestrated times, hoping to be heard by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.