The Ottawa Senators were back on the road on Thursday night, paying a visit to the Pittsburgh Penguins. PPG Paints Arena hasn’t been kind to the Senators historically, but they looked to change that and get back to winning after their loss to the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday night. It was also a return to playing in front of a full crowd, something that the Senators haven’t had the benefit of for some time with restrictions in Ontario. In the game itself, well, it was filled with twists and turns that kept hope alive in the nation’s capital, but it wasn’t quite enough, and the mighty Penguins held on to win 6-4.
Senators’ Comeback Falls Short
If you changed the channel after the first period of this game, no one would have blamed you. The Sens, although they outshot the Penguins comfortably in the first frame, were being dominated on the scoreboard. With goals from Dominik Simon, Evgeni Malkin, and Mike Matheson and only one to counter from Drake Batherson for the Senators, the Penguins held firm control of the game. Not to mention their goal that was called back after head coach D.J. Smith challenged it for offside.
If you look up “disaster” in the dictionary, the first period of this game might just show up. It’s times like that where you remember that the Senators are still rebuilding, and they don’t stack up against Stanley Cup contenders all the time. The second period wasn’t quite the same disaster, but it still wasn’t very inspiring for the young squad. Two more goals from Sidney Crosby and Matheson again gave the Penguins a 5-1 lead that you would have thought to be insurmountable, but as they have numerous times this season, they put together an effort to be proud of in the final frame.
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The comeback effort was sparked with a goal from Tim Stutzle under two minutes into the third period. He found himself all alone at the front of the Penguins’ net and pounced on a rebound, banging it past Tristan Jarry. This seemed to breathe some life into the Senators, and after looking down and out for some time, they were back into the game. It didn’t take long for them to get another goal either. Josh Norris forced his way to the front of the net and got just enough of the puck to redirect it into the net. The Sens were within two.
Just minutes later, the Senators had a great chance to bring the game within a goal when Alex Formenton was given a penalty shot, but Jarry stood tall and turned him aside. Off of the back of that disappointment, they would quickly find the back of the net once again. A great play from Jacob Bernard-Docker found Norris in front of the net all alone, where he promptly tapped it home. Ottawa had battled back to bring the game within one, but that was as close as they would be able to get.
Despite some good chances, no one could find that tying goal for the Senators. They would rue their missed chances earlier in the game, but nevertheless, it was a good showing for such a young team to take the Penguins to the brink. It’s games like this that build character for a team, and that will help them when they do eventually become contenders themselves. It’s a tough pill to swallow on the night, but the lessons learned in games like these go beyond just the one game.
Josh Norris’ Big Night
It’s been a great season so far for Norris, but he played a key role for the Sens in their comeback effort on Thursday night. He scored two goals in the third period of this game, bringing his season total to 18 goals on top of his eight assists. The 22-year-old often finds himself in good spots on the ice to score, so was the case for him in this game. His goals didn’t come from great shots or flashy plays but rather from him being in the right place at the right time.
It hasn’t just been the scoring that the Sens have counted on him for either. He plays a solid all-around game that makes him one of the team’s more reliable players. With his goals in this game, he reached a new career-high for goals, breaking his previous high of 17 that he set in 2020-21. Having played 24 fewer games than he did last season, it’s clear to see that he has improved drastically since then. Norris is proving time and time again that the Senators’ return for Erik Karlsson was more than worth it.
Anton Forsberg Not Fit For Starting Role
With Matt Murray out of the lineup again for this game, Anton Forsberg was forced into action for the second-consecutive game. There have been times where a certain portion of the fan base talks about wanting to see him be the starting goaltender, but once again, he proved why that shouldn’t happen. Forsberg has bounced around the league for a reason, most of that being because of his inconsistencies. You never really know what you will get from him, and it’s almost like you’re spinning a lucky wheel to find out.
On Thursday night, the Sens were out of luck as they rolled one of Forsberg’s bad games. In small doses, he’s a perfectly fine option as a backup goaltender, but when he’s forced to play with more frequency, things tend to get rocky. By no stretch is Forsberg part of the Senators’ long-term plans, but his inability to make a critical save in the first period cost his team a chance to tie this game and perhaps even win it.
That’s not to say he was the reason they lost the game, but when your team needs a big save from you, and you don’t deliver, it can be backbreaking. With Murray playing as well as he has in the past couple of games and Philip Gustavsson trying to find a spot on the NHL roster, Forsberg could be on the outside looking in for the second half of the season. When he does see the net, he can produce, it’s just a matter of what he gives you on a night-to-night basis.
More Positves Than Negatives
Not all losses are created equal. Sure, the first two periods of this game were ones the Sens won’t love when they see the film, but they bounced back in the third and made things interesting. They competed and threw everything they could at a veteran club and showed once again why they are one of the more exciting things in hockey right now. It was a good start to what promises to be a hectic weekend.
Currently a journalism student at Algonquin College in Ottawa, I have always had a passion for the OHL and the Ottawa 67’s in particular. I have been attending games since I was young, and being involved with sports has always been a dream of mine. Sports writing fits perfectly into that. You can also find me talking and writing other sports (primarily Canadian football) on my website 13thmansports.ca!