The Florida Panthers top line proved too much for the young Ottawa Senators on Thursday night. Jonathan Huberdeau, Aleksander Barkov, and Evgenii Dadonov connected for a combined total of seven points as the cats defeated the Sens 5-2 at Canadian Tire Centre.
“You got to give them some credit. That top line was exceptional tonight. All our defensemen were commenting on just how good that line was tonight”, remarked Senators head coach Marc Crawford following the game.
Huberdeau scored two goals, while Dadonov, Troy Brouwer, and Dryden Hunt also added support on the scoreboard. Barkov and Dadonov registered two assists apiece, while ex-Senator Mike Hoffman was held pointless.
Rookies Colin White and Brady Tkachuk replied for the Senators in dramatic fashion. White’s goal was worthy of the highlight reel, while Tkachuk achieved his team’s goal of scoring 20 times in his first NHL season. During post-game questions with the media, Crawford was also full of praise for the efforts of both players.
Ottawa’s record drops to 27-44-6 and remains at 60 points with only five games remaining in the 2018-19 season. They continue to dwell in the basement of the NHL. Meanwhile, the Panthers improve to 34-32-12 and 80 points. However, Florida was eliminated from 2019 playoff contention earlier this week, after they were blown out 6-1 by the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday.
Florida’s offence showed up early. The Panthers were on the scoreboard just 30 seconds after the opening face-off. Dadonov was credited with the goal on the Panthers first shot. He used traffic in front of Anders Nilsson as a screen.
At 12:59, White tied the game with a goal for the highlight reel. Skating from his zone, the rookie rushed up the ice with speed. He dodged some Panthers along the way, before deking-out Aaron Ekblad and going bar down on Roberto Luongo.
Okay, alright, Colin White. pic.twitter.com/WtZKZshML4
— NHL (@NHL) March 29, 2019
Early in the second period, Florida pulled ahead once more. This time, it was Hunt who made a great effort. With possession of the puck, he fended off Senators tough checking defenseman Mark Borowiecki, in the home team’s zone. Then, in close proximity to the blue line, he turned and shot. The puck was redirected by Riley Sheahan, before ending up on Brouwer’s stick. The 33-year-old veteran had no issue beating Nilsson with a close-range shot.
Not long after Brouwer’s tally, the Panthers scored again to make it 3-1. Huberdeau made it look all too easy when he received a calculated sauce pass from Barkov. In one sleek motion, Huberdeau received the pass and pulled a move that fooled the Senators goalie into gliding in the opposite direction.
Huberdeau tried this same play later in the period, but Nilsson made the save of the game on his second attempt. The 28-year-old Swede absolutely robbed the talented Panther forward with an outstanding glove save.
Tkachuk made it 3-2 when he chipped in his milestone goal. The 19-year-old rookie’s 20th goal ties Alexandre Daigle for most goals by a teenager in Senators franchise history.
However, that would be as close as Ottawa would get in this match. Florida scored two empty net goals with less than a minute and a half remaining, courtesy of Hunt and Huberdeau.
The Brady Bunch
Two Brady’s took to the ice in this game. One for the Senators, the other for the Panthers. Both Brady’s enjoyed memorable nights and each earned a place in the game’s official three stars.
For the Senators, it was 19-year-old Brady Tkachuk, who was named the game’s second star. In addition to reaching 20-goals in his first NHL season, the American tied a franchise record with most shots on goal in a game and most ever by a Senators forward. After 60 minutes, Tkachuk had fired the puck 12 times on the Panthers goalie. This ties former defenseman Jason York‘s record, which was set in 1999. The effort was also impressive considering Ottawa had a combined total of 30 shots on goal throughout the whole game. Tkachuk alone accounted for nearly half of these.
For the Panthers, it was 22-year-old Brady Keeper, who was named the game’s third star in his NHL debut. In his first NHL game, Keeper logged 12:40 ice time, and went plus-one in addition to making two hits, one block, and generating one shot on goal. The night was especially meaningful for Keeper, who is of Pimicikamak Cree Nation in Cross Lake, Manitoba. Fittingly, the Senators had scheduled this game in the spirit of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation efforts with First Nations, Inuit, and Métis.
Gibbons the Great
Brian Gibbons continues to impress as an Ottawa Senator. The 31-year-old forward was acquired by Ottawa from the Anaheim Ducks in what appeared to be a minor trade at the time. However, since joining the Senators, the Massachusetts native has become red-hot. Impressively, Gibbons is now up to 12 points in 15 games wearing the red, white, and black colors. Previously, he only had five points in 44 games with the Ducks this year.
Against the Panthers, Gibbons earned assists on both Senator goals. His second assist on Tkachuk’s goal was particularly memorable. Gibbons found the rookie scorer with an impressive pass that he completed while falling after being dragged down by a Panther on the rush.
There is no doubt Gibbons is fitting in well with the hockey club, both on and off the ice.
“He’s been huge. I’ve trained with him all summer so it’s nice to have him around. He’s a good friend of mine. He’s been playing really well for us and it’s good to see that”, said White after the game.
Considering his impacts and contributions since arriving in Ottawa, the Senators must give Gibbons strong consideration while they have him. The battle-ready forward, who is making $1 million this year, is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent on Jul. 1.
- On Wednesday, the Ottawa Senators Foundation invested $1,375,000 into Project Step, which is an initiative to help educate youth and combat substance abuse.
- Earlier on Thursday, the Senators nominated Jean-Gabriel Pageau as their candidate for the Bill Masterton Trophy. This trophy is awarded to the player who best illustrates perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to the game. Pageau suffered a torn Achilles injury at the start of training camp and missed 42 games. In 34 games since returning on Jan. 6, the 26-year-old has 10 points (3G, 7A).
- As part of the game’s dedication to Truth and Reconciliation, a memorable moment was when the Canadian national anthem was sung in English, French, and Anishinaabemowin.
- Cody Ceci returned after missing the past three games with an upper-body injury.
Official 3 Stars of the Game
- Evgenii Dadonov, Florida
- Brady Tkachuk, Ottawa
- Brady Keeper, Florida
The Senators and Toronto Maple Leafs square off for the final Battle of Ontario in the 2018-19 campaign this Saturday at Canadian Tire Centre. The last-placed Senators are 2-1-0 against the fifth-placed Maple Leafs this year. Toronto has a record of 45-25-7 and 97 points. The last time these two rivals met, the Senators walloped Toronto 6-2 on home ice.
Cover Photo Credit: Adrian Wyld / THE CANADIAN PRESS
Billy Morrison lives in Ottawa and covers the Ottawa Senators for Full Press Coverage. Follow Billy on Twitter, @BillyMorrison01.