Last night's game against Ottawa started off with a fearful barrage of shots from the Sens. Almost 6 1/2 minutes in the Isles were being outshot 7-1, forcing Joey MacDonald to commit with some big saves to keep the game at a scoreless tie. At the end of the first the ice was tilted in the Senators favor. I looked up to the score board to see the Sens were not out-shooting us 15-7. More or less, if it wasn't for Mac the game could have been all but over in the first twenty minutes.
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It was evident that the Sens were angry over the Pock hit that injured Ryan Shannon two nights before. The hitting picked up early, and eventually Guerin tried to drop the mits with Chris Neil before Doug Weight intervened. However Jackman took care of business in a respectable bout between the two a few minutes later.
With the ice surface in terrible condition, Gordon told his players that this game would "not be won by pretty goals." The coach was dead on as the scoring began in the second period with Bergenheim burying a loose puck in front after a Doug Weight redirection for his third of the year. At the other end of the ice Mac was staying sharp in net; with almost 9 minutes played in the second the Senators were leading in shots 20-12. Although the shots tally was greatly in favor of the Sens, the Isles managed to put up another goal, this time on the power play, from Jon Sim after Nielsen made a sick move cutting to the middle to get a shot on net.
At the end of the second the Isles continued to play the physical game. Unofficially, (just on my account) Sutton delivered three huge hits in the final minutes, one particularly on Jason Spezza that sent him flying off the boards. It seemed to cause some frustrations amongst the Sens as it led to a penalty on Dany Heatley after he knocked Park over from behind.
The power play carried over in to the third but did not generate many chances, yet 3:59 into the third frame Chris Campoli rifled a blast from the blue line, picking the top right corner of the net to make it 3-0 from Sim and Jackman. Mac continued to stay flashy, whipping out the glove several times to make key saves to keep the Isles from another third period downfall.
But then the third period curse we all know to well seemed as if it was going to strike again. Before I knew it the score was 3-1 where Dany Heatley buried a loose puck after Mac made the initial saveut seven minutes remaining. Then with 1:33 left in the third with Auld on the bench, the Sens made it 3-2...let the nail-biting begin!
No, not tonight...the Isles held on once again with Mac finishing the game with 38 saves. Jackman's poke check at center ice and at the top of the Isles zone secured the Isles win in the final seconds preventing any more chances from the high-powered Senators offense.
After the game Doug Weight mentioned that they "want to be better at home" and tonight's game was a sign of heading in that direction. Gordon stated that Weight said during one of the intermission's, "skate, skate, skate, boys" and that maintained the theme for the entire game. Although the Isles were heavily being out shot they kept up a relentless hustle and fore check that allowed them to stay in the game. Add MacDonald's goaltending and then you have a win. Gordon said a few games ago that he noticed improvement with the way the Isles were playing the system. Now after sweeping a home and home series with the Senators, that statement can be backed up with improving results.
On a side note...Bailey and Okposo, although not on the score sheet, seemed to play well together once again. Trade rumors are swirling as well with the Oilers trying to send Roloson to the Isles with DP on the IR. I hope this doesn't happen. I can't speak for all fans but MacDonald is not the reason why the Isles were losing games in the third period or unable to score. He's played well and deserves to have the lead role while Ricky is hurt.
Tune in next time after the Isles host Roberto Luongo and the Vancouver Canucks tomorrow night.
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