OTTAWA — The Ottawa Senators want to be the St. Louis Blues one day.
Tuesday night the Senators fell 5-2 to the Blues, but saw first-hand what it takes to play the kind of hockey they aspire to.
The Senators players and staffadmitted the better team won, but should take solace in the fact that for 50 minutes they held their own, and that’s without a number of key players in the lineup.
“The way they play in the O-zone, they don't throw pucks away, they hold on, they grind you,” said Senators coach D.J. Smith. “I mean, we do have lots of guys out, but that's what we want to be, that's what you want to look for. Two years ago, they win the Stanley Cup playing that exact style and that's what you want to do.
Already without top blueliner Thomas Chabot and forwards Josh Norris and Drake Batherson, the Senators (17-25-4) may now also be without Matt Murray.
Murray, who made 27 saves, left the game following the Blues fourth goal as Oskar Sundqvist fell on top of him following his goal.
The 27-year-old has had his share of injuries this season, but had been playing some of his most consistent hockey of late.
No update was available following the game, but the Senators are hopeful it’s nothing serious.
The turning point or failure to capitalize on one came early in the third period when Ottawa failed to score on a five-on-three for 74 seconds. Ottawa’s best chance came as Tim Stützle hit a post.
“The five-on-three’s the game, we knew it,” admitted Smith. (Stützle) hits the post and we had a couple of looks and we just kind of panicked with it. I thought there were some plays there that we could have made and should have made, but we didn’t and you know that's hockey. I mean if we score there, we get momentum and away we go, but you know at the end of the day, they outplayed us tonight, they were the better team.”
The Blues’ Brayden Schenn extended his point streak to five games (four goals, four assists) with a first-period goal, while Vladimir Tarasenko scored twice and picked up an assist.
Robert Thomas also scored for St. Louis (28-14-5), who were playing the first of a four-game road trip that will see them also take on Montreal, Toronto and Philadelphia. Ville Husso stopped 18 shots in the win.
Stützle and Parker Kelly scored for Ottawa, while Anton Forsberg made four saves in relief.
The Blues gave full credit to its penalty kill knowing how crucial it was to kill the two-man advantage.
“Everybody played desperate, especially, I want to mention Robert Bortuzzo,” said Tarasenko. “It’s unreal when you see a guy try to block a shot with every part of his body. It’s a huge credit to those guys. They might not share some spotlights in the media, but inside the team we know it’s insane and makes us proud of our teammates and makes us work hard.”
The Blues wore down the Senators in the third and didn’t allow them to generate any real chances.
“I think it’s good for us to play a team like that to see what it takes,” said Ottawa’s Josh Brown. “They’re a good team, so yeah, it’s a bit of a reality check. It’s great to play teams like that. I think that’s the next step for us as a younger group. We get to see how playing down low, cycling and just hitting guys all over the ice, how that really pays off.
Sundqvist made it 4-2 at the ten-minute mark as he was able to take advantage of a loose puck in the crease, while Tarasenko added an empty-net goal to round out the scoring.
St. Louis made it 2-1 as Tarasenko ripped a shot through traffic on the power play and three minutes later Tarasenko turned provider to feed Thomas, who beat Murray with a wrist shot for his sixth of the season.
“He’s all over the ice,” Thomas said of Tarasenko. “He’s playing the right way defensively, he’s in on the forecheck, he’s always open. He’s a superstar, and when he plays like that, it’s tough for teams to defend.”
Ottawa managed to get back to within one as Kelly tipped an Erik Brannstrom point shot.
Brannstrom took on some additional responsibilities with Chabot out of the lineup and took advantage as he picked up two assists on the night.
“I think he’s got a lot of confidence in his game right now,” said Brown. “He’s making plays all over the ice. He made some really good plays tonight."
The Blues opened the scoring midway through the first as Schenn grabbed a loose puck after Ryan O’Reilly won the faceoff and fired a puck past an unsuspecting Murray.
Just over three minutes later the Senators tied it as Stützle took a pass from Brady Tkachuk in stride and drove hard to the net and backhanded in a power-play goal for his ninth of the season.
This was the Senators first power play goal in February as they had gone 0-for-14 to that point.
The two teams hadn’t met since Oct. 10, 2019. Tuesday's game was originally scheduled for Dec. 21 but was postponed when the NHL stopped cross-border games just before the Christmas break.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 15, 2022.
Lisa Wallace, The Canadian Press