Senators put forth impressive effort, but fall short in loss to Maple Leafs

By Wayne Scanlan, Sportsnet

There have been nights this season when the Senators were overly generous with praise for the opposing goaltender. 

Thursday was not one of those nights. The Sens deserved better – at least a point, as Claude Giroux said – but tipped a cap to Maple Leafs goaltender Joseph Woll after Ottawa put 41 shots on the Toronto net in a 4-3 Leafs victory. 

Oddly, Woll wasn’t able to finish the game. He left with an injury 9:38 left in the third period after going down awkwardly on a rather innocent backhand shot from Ottawa’s Rourke Chartier. 

Emergency callup Martin Jones came on in relief and survived despite giving up a goal to Giroux with Ottawa’s goalie pulled for an extra attacker. Jones stopped nine of the 10 shots he faced. 

The Sens had a perfect opportunity to tie the game when Simon Benoit took a high-sticking penalty at 19:09. But the Sens could not break through on the six-on-four advantage, with Anton Forsberg again pulled from the Ottawa net. 

Repeatedly, the Senators tried to put the puck on the stick of Josh Norris, who had scored earlier in the game on a breakaway. 

“At six-on-four at the end of the game, you’ve got to find a way to score there,” Norris said. “Me too, they put the puck in my hand, I’ve got to find a way to do better with that.”

The Leafs did throw themselves at pucks. 

“Doesn’t matter,” Norris said. “I’ve got to do better.

The general refrain from the Ottawa room: This was a tough loss after putting together one of their best efforts of the season against an archrival, but still coming up short. 

The Senators fell back to 10-11 on the season, before heading into Detroit for another divisional game on Saturday.  

“We play like that every night, we’re going to win more than we lose,” Giroux said. “As frustrating as it is right now, we played a pretty solid game. We’re trying to build something here so we’ve got to keep pushing and try not to get too down.”

A big issue was the failure to add to an early goal by Norris. Vladimir Tarasenko was robbed twice by Woll, among his other displays of menace. 

“He made a ton of saves,” said Senators head coach D.J. Smith. “And obviously some real bell-ringers there. But in saying that, if you look at the whole picture we shot ourselves in the foot – two bad turnovers in the second, one goes in the net.”

It’s that old bugaboo, the Senators having issues in the middle frame. 

Just 1:42 into the period, Mitch Marner got in behind Chychrun and buried a shot to the top corner on Forsberg’s stick side. 

At times, the Sens couldn’t get off the ice as Toronto hemmed them in and Ottawa took icing calls. Nevertheless, the play evened out as the period progressed and both teams were lamenting chances missed. 

Of course, when all the brilliant chances didn’t bear fruit, an ugly scramble in front of Forsberg resulted in a goal for David Kampf, his second of the season. From behind the net, John Tavares put the puck in front for Kampf who jammed it through Forsberg, who thought he had it trapped but clearly did not. 

The Leafs pushed the lead to 3-1 in the third period on a tap-in by Calle Jarnkrok while Sens defenceman Travis Hamonic was playing without a stick. 

What followed was a special moment for a young Senators defenceman as Jacob Bernard-Docker, filling in for the injured Thomas Chabot, ripped a shot from the point for his first career goal. JBD swooped his stick in the air wildly as his teammates mobbed him. 

“I probably celebrated like I’ve never scored one in my life,” Bernard-Docker said. “But, first one, so I thought I might as well give it a little celebration. It was fun. And, you know, a lot of the guys came over and said congratulations. It was a really cool moment.”

It was a nice night overall for Bernard-Docker, paired with his roommate and former college teammate Jake Sanderson while matched up against the Austin Matthews line. Bernard-Docker played 18:09 and finished plus 1. 

Fans of both teams were into this one from the beginning, inside a Canadian Tire Centre packed with 19,309 spectators. For a change, Senators fans initiated a lot of the chants and Leafs fans responded. 

Smith had said the best way to take Toronto fans out of the game was to “play well.”

No problem there. 

The first period was so tight it could have been played with chess pieces. 

The Senators carried over their efficient play from the Rangers game on Tuesday and outshot the Leafs 16-8 in the first period. 

Yet it was the Maple Leafs who had the best opportunity to take a lead, earning the only power play of the period with 2:35 remaining, on a boarding call against Ridly Greig. 

The Senators killed off that power play and as happens so often, a chance at one end wound up in a goal at the other. 

A pass to Jarnkrok looked like it might be a tap-in for the big winger but when Jarnkrok couldn’t get his stick on the pass from Max Domi, Ottawa got possession and Jakob Chychrun found Norris at the Leafs blueline. 

Norris skated in all alone and put a quick shot through the five-hole of Woll for a timely goal at 19:34 of the first period. It was Norris’s sixth of the season and his first since the Nov. 16 game in Stockholm against the Detroit Red Wings. 

Then came the near misses. Vlad Tarasenko robbed twice by Woll’s trapper over the first two periods. Sens captain Brady Tkachuk got in alone and ripped a shot off the crossbar. He whipped his stick in the air in disgust at the missed opportunity. 

Woll made two other showstopper saves in the second – getting the pad down to beat Mathieu Joseph on a breakaway and then corralling a puck off the stick of Norris, who took a feed from Claude Giroux. 

That’s how it went. Ultimately, Woll hobbled off, after a job well done. 

The Senators tried to keep heads up after a stalwart effort in defeat. 

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