OTTAWA – A lackluster effort isn’t the best way to end a losing season in front of your fans, but that’s exactly what the Ottawa Senators offered the home crowd Thursday night.
Ottawa suffered a 4-0 loss to the Florida Panthers in their final home game of the season.
The Senators (32-42-7) wrapped up the season in Philadelphia on Friday after missing the playoffs for the fifth straight year.
“You definitely want to finish better than that,” Senators coach DJ Smith said. “Tomorrow we have to play a lot harder than that. We didn’t play through any of the structures we play with that gave us a chance to win every night.
“No matter how many guys are out, you play with a structure and you stay there. We had a lot of people on their own page and, you know, long shifts. We played much better hockey.
With the first seed in the Eastern Conference already locked in, the Panthers rested a few of their starters, including Jonathan Huberdeau, Aleksander Barkov, Claude Giroux, MacKenzie Weegar and Gustav Forsling.
Despite the absence of some big names, the gap between the Senators and the Panthers remains clear.
Spencer Knight was solid, making 27 saves for his second career shutout. Carter Verhaeghe led the Panthers (58-17-6) with a pair of goals, while Sam Reinhart and Sam Bennett also scored.
“I think it was huge,” Panthers head coach Andrew Brunette said of Knight’s performance. “It was important for the group and I think it was important for him. He was solid the whole game. I’m proud of our group that we kind of sealed off and had a kind of mentality of control where we didn’t give up much in the third period, to make sure we got him the shutout.
Filip Gustavsson stopped 26 shots for the Senators.
Despite their shortcomings, the Senators were still in the game to start the third when Florida held a slim 1-0 lead, but a pair of goals 21 seconds apart proved to be the difference.
Bennett was able to pounce on a rebound from Anthony Duclair up front to make it 2-0 and moments later Eetu Luostarinen found Verhaeghe covering for him from a slumped Gustavsson.
“I think it deflated them a bit,” Verhaeghe said. “They thought they were still in the game, but getting two quick ones like that and making it 3-0 kind of puts it out of reach. I mean, they play a tough game. Give them credit – it was good.
Verhaeghe took Maxim Mamin’s pass from the doorstep and snapped it in for his second of the night to make it 4-0.
Ottawa entered the game on a four-game winning streak, but simply couldn’t generate any momentum.
“I just thought we played really slow,” Smith added. “We kept (the puck) and brought it back and we really didn’t put their ‘D’ under any pressure and then we got beat. Loads of turnovers, two on one and we didn’t play them very well and they end up in the net and then you start to drag.
It’s been a long and grueling season for the Senators as they have dealt with COVID on a regular basis, in addition to significant injuries to key players, but losing the last game at home is not what players want fans to remember as they head to the start. -season.
“Obviously, we wanted to get this win and end the season in style in front of our fans,” said Thomas Chabot. “But at the end of the day, you just have to see them at the end of the game and keep supporting us. We’ve said it many times, they mean such a big difference to us and it’s fun to play in front of them.
Chabot has just returned from injury and admits the weight of the season has been heavy at times, but knows the team played far from their best that night.
“At the end of the day the guys have played 82 games this year and a lot of guys are tired and injured, playing through some things and at the end of the day we wanted to play the game we always play but it’s not working out. no. you always go as you want.
“Obviously we gave it our all and did our best, but it was one of those nights.”
Leading 1-0, the Panthers had a great opportunity to extend their lead early in the second with a two-man advantage for 51 seconds, but couldn’t capitalize.
Bennett grabbed Drake Batherson’s puck at the goal line and passed it to Reinhart, who scored his 33rd of the season from hashmarks to give the Panthers a 1-0 first lead.
Ottawa ends its season Friday against Philadelphia, while the Panthers end the season in Montreal.
NOTES: Eugene Melnyk’s daughters Anna and Olivia were on hand to drop the puck for the home final…Florida’s Aleksi Heponiemi, Matt Kiersted and Cole Schwindt were all in the lineup…Anton Lundell (upper body) and Radko Gudas (lower body) missed the game as they are nursing minor ailments.
This report from The Canadian Press was first published on April 28, 2022.
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