The Ottawa Senators improved their record on the season to 4-2-0 with an impressive comeback win over the Dallas Stars on Monday (Oct. 24). Magnus Hellberg produced a 29-save performance in his debut for the club, while Derick Brassard scored in his first appearance of the season.
The Senators – who now hold the NHL’s longest active wins streak (four) – were forced to leave top-six centre Josh Norris and starting netminder Anton Forsberg off the roster due to injury, making the result more impressive than it may initially seem. With that said, here are The Hockey Writers’ three takeaways from Ottawa’s win over the Stars. It was a night to remember for several members of the organization.
Magnus Hellberg Silences His Doubters
Cam Talbot’s preseason injury forced the Senators to dip into the waiver wire and claim Hellberg from the Seattle Kraken. The 31-year-old, a former second-round pick of the Nashville Predators, had spent most of his career in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) where he upheld a .927 save percentage through 169 appearances.
Hellberg returned to the NHL at the end of the last season, making it into one game with the Detroit Red Wings before signing with Kraken in the summer. In the preseason, he was penciled in third on Seattle’s depth chart.
However, the Swede’s circumstances have rapidly changed. Talbot’s injury bumped Hellberg into a backup role with a new team, whose faith he immediately repaid with an excellent debut performance.
“He did a great job,” said head coach D.J. Smith. “He was outstanding and obviously gave us a real opportunity to win.”
Hellberg stopped 29 of the 31 shots he faced versus the Stars, including a sprawling save to prevent a wraparound from Ty Dellandrea in the fourth minute. He was blameless on both goals and earned praise from his teammates as a result.
“He was great tonight,” captain Brady Tkachuk said. “He made huge saves, especially the one in the second period on a breakaway – that could’ve put them up by two and made it a lot harder for us. He played amazing for us and he’s an awesome guy. I’m happy that he gets rewarded.”
Hellberg’s performance was exactly what the Senators were hoping for. They needed strength and solid play from their backup and that’s precisely what he delivered. He was delighted after the final buzzer sounded.
“Obviously, winning is a lot of fun,” Hellberg told reporters at the Canadian Tire Centre. “I’ve been waiting to get a start for a couple of weeks now, so it was nice to finally get in the net.”
When asked about his wraparound save, he added: “I was pretty confident it wasn’t a goal because I didn’t have my hand or stick in the net. But he came with a lot of speed and I lost my edge trying to get over to the other post – so my only choice was to throw myself across. I saved it this time, which is always good.”
Shane Pinto’s Scoring Run Continues
Shane Pinto for the Calder Trophy? If he carries on like this, the 21-year-old has a real shot at being crowned rookie of the year. His scoring run has reached the five-game mark and shows no signs of slowing down.
Pinto’s scoring effort versus the Stars was imposing. He nabbed the puck at centre ice, broke into the offensive zone, and unleashed a quick release over Scott Wedgewood’s glove and into the net:
“It’s just going in for me right now,” said Pinto, who became the first rookie in franchise history to score in five straight games. “It’s getting pretty lucky but I’m just happy we found a way to win that one. That was another mature win by us and we just have to keep it rolling.”
It’s impossible not to be impressed by Pinto’s form. He has developed excellent chemistry with Tyler Motte and Mathieu Joseph on the third line and is a constant threat whenever he hits the ice. Most importantly, he is a positive influence in every zone.
If the injury to Josh Norris is as serious as some fear, Pinto will have a key role in driving the offence for the Senators while his teammate is out. For a youngster who missed most of last season, that’s quite the turnaround.
D.J. Smith Credits Solid Penalty Kill
The Senators were perfect on the penalty kill versus the Stars, stifling six minutes of five-on-four action with a defensive effort that caught the eye of their head coach.
“I thought our penalty kill was the difference and it settled us down. We started getting composure, got a little more emotionally involved and physical,” Smith told reporters in Ottawa. “We understand how hard we have to work in a game to get to the third period and not be down. I thought we worked really hard in the second to set that up.”
Also of note: the Senators scored on the power play. After a scrappy moment of play along the boards, Thomas Chabot received the puck at the blue line and hammered it towards the net, where Drake Batherson was on-hand to tip it home:
It doesn’t matter how many players they have on the ice; the Senators have clicked very early in the season for a team that underwent significant changes in the summer. Smith should take plenty of encouragement from his side’s recent performance.
Looking Ahead for the Senators
The Senators finish their six-game homestand on Thursday (Oct. 27) against the 1-3-1 Minnesota Wild. They will then head south of the border for a pair of games versus the Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning on Oct. 29 and Nov. 1, respectively.
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Luke is an award-winning freelance sports journalist from London, England. In addition to his work on the Washington Capitals and Ottawa Senators for THW, he covers the Elite Ice Hockey League for British Ice Hockey and world soccer for numerous publications, including on Substack. To stay up to date with his content, follow @LukeJames_32 on Twitter.