MONTREAL – It’s often said the playoffs are a new season, but it’s the same old story for the Ottawa Senators’ struggling power play.
After coming up empty in the series opener, the Senators once again failed to convert on four opportunities in Friday’s 3-1 loss to the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre, evening the series at a game apiece. Ottawa managed just seven shots with the man advantage, which is now 0-for-6 in the series.
“I thought we did better things with it, but it certainly cost us tonight,” said Senators coach Paul MacLean. “We could have used something out of our power play tonight. We had three opportunities in the first period and I think that was a huge part of the game.”
Ottawa finished the regular season tied for 20th in the NHL on the power play at 15.9 per cent. Only three times this season did they connect more than once with the extra attacker–twice against Montreal.
But while the Senators had their woes, they were also facing a stronger Canadiens penalty kill.
“They seemed to pressure us at the right moments and we couldn’t really get any zone time,” Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson said. “We made some adjustments and had some great chances to score in the second period, which could have been the difference for us.”
They were also facing a stronger presence from Montreal netminder Carey Price, whose late second period sprawling stop on Sergei Gonchar maintained his team’s one-goal lead.
“Any time you lose, you look back. Power plays, especially on the road, can make a big difference and it hasn’t for us so far,” Alfredsson said. “We had a couple of great chances in the second.…We miss, Price makes a great save and they come down and score and get the winner.”
While the Senators struggled to connect on the power play, the same couldn’t be said for the Canadiens on their opponent’s bodies. Montreal, which finished the regular season 20th in the league in hits, concluded the night with a 37-26 hit advantage. Eighteen of those came in the first period alone, to Ottawa’s seven.
“I knew they would come out hard tonight with their lineup. They had grinders on each line,” said Senators defenceman Marc Methot. “They played a strong game. It wasn’t easy for us.”
Brandon Prust and Colby Armstrong led the way with six hits each for the Habs while rookie blue-liner Jarred Tinordi came in second with four of his own. Six Canadiens logged three hits, including Ryan White. One of those came at the expense of defenceman Erik Karlsson, much to the delight of the sold-out Bell Centre crowd.
“That’s what you want in the playoffs. You don’t want just shinny hockey out there. It’s a great atmosphere, it’s fast, it’s physical and that’s just the way it should be,” said Alfredsson.
And, it’s added more fuel what was until now a pretty dormant rivalry.
“It’s pretty neat,” Alfredsson said of the burgeoning battle. “It is physical, it is a lot at stake, obviously, and it’s two cities that are close to each other.
“There have been a few big hits already and that’s what creates a rivalry–battling all over. These are two teams that really want this and you can tell.”