In a battle of backup goaltenders, it was Thomas Greiss who outperformed Anders Nilsson, making 35 saves as the New York Islanders took a 4-2 victory from the Ottawa Senators on Thursday night. Valtteri Filppula scored twice, with both goals coming in the first period, to lead the way for the visitors.
Interim head coach Marc Crawford was nonetheless pleased with the effort put forth by his young team, despite the final score.
“At the end of the day, I think we’re concentrating on process, and I thought our process was decent tonight,” says Crawford. “So, we want to make sure that our work level is always at a high level. I thought our work level will have a check mark there tonight.”
“(New York)’s a good team, they found a way to win the game tonight. On our side, we’ve still got some lessons to learn. As far as process, we’re pleased with how our process (worked), guys worked hard,” he added.
The Sens got off to a sluggish start in the third period, failing to register a shot on goal until more than five minutes into the frame. Following that initial lull, they managed to put some pressure on the Islander defence, though they couldn’t get it past Greiss. With 7:31 remaining, Anthony Beauvillier would score for the visitors, jamming a loose puck into the back of the Ottawa net to give his team a 3-2 lead. A short time later, Sens forward Zack Smith got into a heated exchange with Islanders forward Casey Cizikas, as the latter appeared to slash at the former. Both men would go to the penalty box for five minutes, though Cizikas would add an empty netter shortly after exiting the box, sealing the win for New York.
Just over five minutes into the second period, Islanders defenceman Johnny Boychuk took a cross-checking penalty, giving Ottawa the first power play opportunity of the game. However, it was the short-handed team that took advantage, nearly burying a goal on a 2-on-1 rush. Ottawa would fail to convert on the man-advantage, keeping the score at 2-1 for the visitors.
The home team would tie things up just before the midway point of the period, however, as Oscar Lindberg, acquired at the trade deadline in the deal that sent Mark Stone to Las Vegas, fired home a wrister from the right circle to even the score at 2-2. Brady Tkachuk took a tripping penalty two minutes later, giving the Islanders a power play opportunity, though they would fail to capitalize. The Sens would get another chance on the man-advantage near the end of the period, but came away empty-handed once again. A big hit from Jean-Gabriel Pageau would lead to a brief scrum in front of the benches as the period came to an end, though cooler heads would prevail.
The game got off to an interesting start, as Tkachuk laid a big hit on Islanders forward Brock Nelson three and a half minutes into the first period that caused the glass to come off the boards, much to the shock of those in the first couple of rows. Two minutes after play resumed, Valtteri Filppula skated through the slot before roofing a backhander past Nilsson to give New York a 1-0 lead.
The Senators responded quickly, however, as just over a minute later, Tkachuk tipped a point shot past Greiss for his 15th goal of the year, tying things up at one goal apiece. The next eight minutes were largely uneventful, before Filppula scored his second of the period with 4:36 remaining in the frame to give New York a 2-1 advantage, which they would carry into the first intermission.
At the tail end of a lost season, with much of the roster made up of young talent, one of the few remaining veterans on the team that Crawford has been impressed with is Pageau, whom the coach credits with invigorating his younger linemates.
“I think he’s skating so well right now, his skating is kind of drawing (Anthony) Duclair into the fight, he’s really done a great job with Brady (Tkachuk),” Crawford says. “I think Brady is starting now, maybe because (Pageau) plays the game so fast, Brady’s feet, they seem faster.”
Up next for the Senators is a road matchup with the division rival Boston Bruins on March 9.