Senators’ News & Rumors: Smith, Pinto, Motte

The Ottawa Senators recorded an impressive comeback victory over the Washington Capitals on Thursday (Oct. 20), improving their record on the season to 2-2-0. After the final buzzer sounded, head coach D.J. Smith, winger Tyler Motte, and centreman Shane Pinto spoke to reporters. There’s plenty to unpack from what they said in the latest edition of Senators’ News & Rumors.

D.J. Smith Praises Senators for Mature Performance

The Capitals caught the Senators flat-footed in the first period, racing to an early lead thanks to goals from Anthony Mantha and T.J. Oshie. However, the home side fought back and earned praise from Smith as a result.

“I thought we built our game in the second period,” he explained after his side’s 5-2 win. “We just didn’t play with enough emotion to start and they came out flying with a couple of power play goals. As you can see, we’re growing together.”

Smith also tipped his hat to the work of general manager Pierre Dorion. He complimented the team’s offseason reconstruction and praised his returning players, namely Pinto, for taking a step up over the summer.

D.J. Smith Ottawa Senators
D.J. Smith, head coach of the Ottawa Senators (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

“It’s a different team: there’s more maturity, they’re more composed, and they’re able to turn it up a level,” he said. “We weren’t at the gear we wanted to be [in the first period] but you’ve got to give that dressing room credit. Those guys got themselves ready for the second and third and came out and gave us an effort.”

When asked to define his tactical approach for this season, Smith added: “We want to give [our opponents] no time and we want to play fast. I thought we were slow and allowed them to be above us in the first period. In the second and third, we just turned it up and stayed on them. That’s exactly the way we want to play.”

After two wins in a row, the dark clouds are starting to lift in Ottawa. The Senators haven’t produced a 60-minute performance yet, but it feels like only a matter of time until they do.

Senators’ Tyler Motte Impressed by Locker Room Leadership

Motte, who joined the club as an unrestricted free agent in the summer, scored an empty-netter and provided an assist in 15:24 time on ice versus the Capitals. He has quickly become a fan favourite at the Canadian Tire Centre and already speaks like an established member of the squad.

“That’s our standard right there,” Motte said of the Senators’ resurgence. “You saw it for two-thirds of the game, obviously we want to be able to show it for all three, but we pushed back and it’s really important to do that early in the season in our own building.”

Tyler Motte New York Rangers
Tyler Motte, formerly of the New York Rangers (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

While the 27-year-old was tight-lipped about what was said in the Senators’ locker room during the first intermission, he hinted that the players held each other accountable.

“There were definitely things said but I’ll leave it at that,” Motte said of the Senators’ first intermission team talk.

“We got to where we needed to be in the second period: that’s what this team does. We’ve got some leaders and some guys who can respond in here, and it’s important that we do that all season. I just think we got to our game. We responded, looked at ourselves in the mirror and knew we were a better team [that what we had shown]. We stuck to our identity in the last two periods. It’s important to get to that standard.”

Motte’s signing was the final touch of an impressive offseason from Dorion. If the St. Clair-born forward continues to produce at his current rate, the deal will look even better in hindsight.

Senators’ Shane Pinto ‘Visualized’ Hot Start

Pinto has been the breakout star of the season for the Senators. The 21-year-old has scored in each of his last three appearances and combined perfectly with Motte and Mathieu Joseph versus the Capitals:

“We didn’t play well at all in the first period, but I think the way that we responded shows maturity,” he reflected postgame. “There are no excuses for how we started in the first period: we’ve got to do better there.”

Pinto’s line has been one of the Senators’ most effective units through the first five games of the season and clicked once again against the Capitals. After an injury-hit season last time out, the former first-round pick is relishing having a regular spot on the team.

Related: Senators’ 3 Up, 3 Down: Stützle, Forsberg & More

“We could’ve had a couple,” he said of his line’s efforts in the offensive zone, “but we were just worried about defence. Sometimes that creates offence, and we had a couple of looks, but we were focused on defence in a tight game. Luckily, we scored one.”

When asked to reflect on his fast start to the year, Pinto added: “I’m just playing my game. I’m playing responsibly and just kinda thinking out there. It’s worked out, thankfully. I’ve [also] got linemates who are working hard for me who give me those chances and I’m thankful that they’re going in right now.

“I just wanted to play games and help the team win, but I definitely visualized this.”

Looking Ahead for the Senators

The Senators don’t have long to enjoy their win over the Capitals; they return to the ice on Saturday (Oct. 22) for a home game versus the Arizona Coyotes. In the third week of the season, they host the Dallas Stars and Minnesota Wild before visiting the Florida Panthers next Saturday (Oct. 29).

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