It was a magical night for Matt Duchene, and it was fitting to take place against his former team. While celebrating his 28th birthday and his first game back since the birth of his son, the Ottawa Senators sniper enjoyed a three point game against the Colorado Avalanche in a 5-2 win.

The native of Haliburton, Ontario generated two goals and an assist in this match, the second of two this season between the hockey clubs. This game’s first star now has an impressive 45 points in 38 games.

“You couldn’t have written it better. It’s a very special feeling… I play my best when I’m light and happy, and this week has been the best week of my life”, said a jubilant Duchene after the game.

Brady Tkachuk, Mark Stone, and Ryan Dzingel also scored for the home team in this affair, while Nikita Zadorov and Nathan MacKinnon scored for the visiting Avalanche.

With the win, the Senators improve to 18-24-5 and 41 points, which ranks them last in the Atlantic Division and 29th in the NHL. With their loss, the Avalanche record drops to 21-18-5 and remains at 50 points, which is ranked third in the Central Division and 15th in the NHL.

Sens light the lamp

Despite the Senators outshooting the Avalanche 12-8 in the first period, the score remained even. Goaltenders Anders Nilsson and Semyon Varlamov both made important saves when challenged in the opening frame to keep the game scoreless.

The second period, however, was a different story. A total of four goals were registered in this frame.

Tkachuk opened the scoring on a determined effort to get the puck past a sprawled Varlamov 2:06 after the intermission. Just over a minute later, the Senators scored their second goal of the game, credited to Mark Stone.

Around the game’s midway point, Thomas Chabot made his presence felt. This was the 21-year-old’s first game back after missing eight due to a shoulder injury. Seconds after disrupting a Sven Andrighetto breakaway with a massive poke check, Chabot completed his shift engaging in an odd-man rush the other way, before cooly sliding the puck to Ryan Dzingel at the side of the Avs net. The Sens sniper made no mistake, scoring his 19th of the campaign, and lifting his team to a 3-0 lead. It was a remarkable shift for number 72, who hasn’t seemed to miss a beat in his triumphant return to action.

Nikita Zadorov got the visiting team on the scoreboard before the end of the period with a cannon from the point, which found the top corner of the net past Nilsson.

Familiar Script?

After 30 minutes of play, the game seemed to be following a familiar script.

Up 3-1 at the midway point of the game on Oct. 26, the Avs came alive in the final half and scored five unanswered goals for a 6-3 win over a young and inexperienced Senators team. Colorado’s top line of Gabriel Landeskog, Mikko Rantanen, and MacKinnon combined for 10 points.

This time, with the game trending in a familiar fashion, the end result was very different. The Sens controlled much of the game, and successfully limited their opponent’s top line to lock down the win.

“Jaros has developed so fast. He’s so good, so intense, he’s got so much to give. And Boro, both of them we felt that because of their size and speed of their top line, we needed to challenge that as much as we could”, said Senators head coach Guy Boucher. “Obviously, Pageau, Paajarvi, and Smitty are the three guys we probably would have had since the beginning of the year as a shut down line… this five man unit was terrific tonight”.

In the third period, Duchene scored his 19th of the campaign. During the post-game interview, he revealed a thoughtful idea from his teammate, Christian Wolanin, after his first goal of the night.

“Wolly did something pretty cool….He told me to grab it [the puck] because his dad grabbed the one from his first goal, the first game when he was born, and he still has it. That was pretty special for him to do that and I’m really happy he did”.

Wolanin’s father, Craig Wolanin, played in 695 NHL games and won a Stanley Cup with the Colorado Avalanche in 1995-96.

Snap back to the third period of this game, the Avalanche were given two great opportunities late in the game to rally a comeback. With Zack Smith serving two minutes for hooking, MacKinnon took advantage on the power play and narrowed the score to 4-2 with 3:59 remaining. Rantanen recorded his 50th assist of the season on this goal, which was also his second assist of the night.

Immediately after, Christian Jaros was penalized for delay of game. This gave the dangerously offensive Colorado team life, and the perfect chance to trigger an avalanche of late game goals. They came agonizingly close to scoring another but struck the post after a shot deflected off Nilsson.

In the end, the Senators survived their second penalty kill effort, and Duchene hit the 20-goal milestone with an empty net tally.

Nilsson Shuts The Door

Nilsson recorded his third win with Ottawa, and he managed to close the door against the Avalanche in style. Donning his new pads, glove, and blocker featuring Senator colors, the 28-year-old stopped 30 of 32 shots for a 2.00 goals against average and a .938 save per cent.

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Ottawa Senators goaltender Anders Nilsson takes a shot sporting his new Senators pads during practice ahead of their game against the Colorado Avalanche on Jan. 16, 2019 (@Senators).

The Swedish native is now 3-1-0 in his last four games, along with a 1.76 goals against average and a .946 save percent. As Nilsson adjusts to Ottawa, he has looked very sound and confident in the Senators crease.

Odd Rivals

The Duchene component is just one reason why these two teams have built an interesting rivalry the past two seasons.

As part of the exchange for the ex-Colorado sniper last year, the Senators included their 2019 first-round draft pick. With the Senators low ranking this season in the NHL, the pick is currently qualified as a lottery pick in the Jack Hughes sweepstakes this spring.

It is in the Senators best interest to ensure Colorado general manager Joe Sakic does not get the pleasure of drafting this highly regarded prospect with their former pick. Every point matters.

Snap shot

Despite missing the last eight games, Chabot remains in the top 10 scoring amongst NHL defensemen. After this game, he has 39 points in 39 games, and is tied with Kris Letang of the Pittsburgh Penguins for sixth.

Official 3 Stars of the Game

  1. Matt Duchene, Ottawa
  2. Anders Nilsson, Ottawa
  3. Mark Stone, Ottawa

Up Next

The Ottawa Senators take off for Raleigh, North Carolina to take on the Carolina Hurricanes this Friday. This will be the second time this month the two teams meet. On Jan. 6, the Canes defeated Ottawa 5-4 at Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa. Carolina is fifth in the Metropolitan Division and 18th in the NHL with a record of 22-19-5 and 49 points.

Scoring Summary


Brady Tkachuk (11)Chris Tierney (24)
Ryan Dzingel (16)
Mark Stone (21)Cody Ceci (8)
Ryan Dzingel (19)Thomas Chabot (29)
Matt Duchene (25)
Nikita Zadorov (4)Nathan MacKinnon (41)
Mikko Rantanen (49)
Matt Duchene (19)Zack Smith (12)

Nathan MacKinnon (27)Tyson Barrie (29)
Mikko Rantanen (50)
Matt Duchene (20)Unassisted

Cover Photo Credit: Adrian Wyld / Canadian Press

Billy Morrison covers the Ottawa Senators and the Atlantic Division for Full Press Coverage. Follow Billy on Twitter, @BillyMorrison01.

Billy Morrison

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