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Islanders rally in the third to hand Senators another loss

Islanders 6, Senators 3

BROOKLYN – The number one goaltender, who has repeatedly bailed out his overmatched team, is out with a concussion. His return date is unknown.

The number one defenceman, one of the pivotal pieces for the future of the organization, has now joined him on the sidelines with an upper body injury. He’s out indefinitely.

As a team, the Ottawa Senators have now dropped three games in a row, four of their past five, only one small step out of the NHL basement.

And what’s now staring them in the face?

How about a Saturday night date against the defending Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals? They were resting up in Ottawa Friday night, as the Senators collapsed late in the turnover-fest that was a 6-3 loss here to the New York Islanders.

Just when it appeared the Senators might have had the Islanders on the ropes, the Barry Trotz-led Islanders were only too happy to pounce on mistake after mistake, scoring the final five goals.

In the small picture, in the big picture, anyway you want to slice it, it’s not a pretty picture as the young Senators continue to display the errors that come with inexperience.

The frustrations of it all – including the questionable Matt Martin hit that knocked star defenceman Thomas Chabot out of Friday’s game in the second period – boiled over with three fights in the final minute.

“I don’t even think it’s a message to them, it’s a message to us,” said defenceman Mark Borowiecki, who had words for countless people on the ice, including Martin, before dropping the gloves. “We have to send messages to ourselves in here. You have to man-up sometimes and give the you-know-what’s a squeeze and you’ve got to make sure we’re there for each other and there for ourselves and show a little bit of pride. It’s not acceptable. We’re not happy about it. We’re not going to roll over and let that stuff happen and redeem ourselves (Saturday).”

Borowiecki has never lacked for passion, but the Senators are entering foreign territory without both Chabot and goaltender Craig Anderson for the time being.

Mike McKenna continues to battle the good fight as the well-travelled, well spoken, journeyman in the Senators net, but remember that he was originally signed to be the emergency back-up to the back-up, based on the assumption that if Anderson was sidelined, Mike Condon could carry the load. Condon continues to battle hip injuries as he tries to work his way back to the NHL.

Following Friday’s dispiriting loss, McKenna was kicking himself for giving in to one of the oldest tricks in the hockey book – the Islanders’ Mathew Barzal pretending he was a friendly voice deep in the Senators end – giving life to an Islanders squad that was uncharacteristically sloppy following the Christmas break. The Senators led 2-0 when McKenna gift-wrapped a pass to Barzal, who in turn fed Josh Bailey for what essentially became an empty net goal.

“It starts with me,” said McKenna of the dreadful turnover. “That’s on me. I gave them momentum.”

That mistake aside, the Senators led 3-1 late in the second period and they had chased Islanders starting goaltender Thomas Greiss. In came former Senator Robin Lehner, which served as a turning point. Lehner now owns a 7-0-3 record against Ottawa.

A Nick Paul turnover led to an Anders Lee goal that made it 3-2.  Barzal scored twice in the third period Islanders onslaught that put the game well out of reach. The errors were here, there and everywhere, including general sloppiness at the blue line and an atrocious line change that led directly to goals.

The latest loss in the books — the Senators are  4-13-1 on the road this season —  Senators coach Guy Boucher now faces a tough question about what to do in goal against the Capitals. Does he go back to McKenna, now 1-4-1 in the Senators net — including a 4-0 defeat to Washington last Saturday — or does he throw caution to the wind and fully give in to the rebuilding effort?

Maybe, just maybe, 24-year-old rookie Marcus Hogberg will make his NHL debut, 5 ½ years after originally being drafted by the organization.

Boucher is in the final year of his contract, but as the losses pile up one on top of the other, the Senators season is going to fast become less about today and more about tomorrow.

And that’s without getting into the deep discussions about whether the trio of pending unrestricted free agents – Mark Stone, Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel – will be re-signed.

“We’re not decided on (Saturday),” Boucher said about the goaltending situation, before Friday’s game.“It just depends on what kind of game we have (Friday), I don’t want to decide guys for the next game. Today is today.”

Today has arrived. Why not give Hogberg a shot?

REMEMBERING WHEN: From a hockey point of view, Barclays Center isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. It was built to be a basketball/concert venue and when it’s converted to an NHL rink, there are countless seats with terrible sightlines, along with the car that takes up prime real estate.

All that said, it will always be special for Chabot.

He scored his first NHL goal here on Dec. 1, 2017, in a 6-5 Senators victory, and acknowledges he kind of “blacked out” after the puck went in. Chabot also had two assists in the game.

“When I first stepped on the ice (Friday) morning, it gave me good memories,” he said before the game. “I remember Bobby (Ryan) coming over the blue line and I went backdoor with a one-timer. It was all fun.”…The next time the Senators visit the Islanders, on March 5, the game will be played at the franchise’s old home, the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

After leaving Friday’s game early, clearly not all the memories are fond ones.

CECI HITS MILESTONE: Few NHL players have endured the type of bumpy ride that Cody Ceci has experienced along the way to hitting the 400-game mark. But as he hit that magic mark against the Islanders, all he was thinking about is how it only seemed like yesterday he was skating for the Ottawa 67’s. “I didn’t even know it was (Friday), but I knew it was coming up,” Ceci said before the puck dropped. “It seems like it was only yesterday that I was being drafted to the team and now I’m playing in my 400th. Everything went by so fast.”

For awhile, at least, it looked like Ceci’s 400th would also be part of a Senators victory. After Mark Stone and Matt Duchene scored to give the Senators a 2-0 lead, Ceci’s goal gave the Senators a 3-1 edge and chased Greiss from the crease in favour of Lehner.

DEFENSIVE STRUGGLES: Like the rest of the defence, Ceci has had his share of struggles – four goals, five assists and a plus/minus of minus 10 before Friday — and taken as much criticism as any Senators player in recent history. Boucher, however, insists that Ceci’s experience has been necessary for the rebuilding team.

“He’s one of those older guys for us and he has helped groom some young guys,” said Boucher. “He had to carry a young guy (Max Lajoie) since the beginning of the year. Lajoie has had good year for a rookie, partly because of him.”

Yes, Ceci, who turned 25 last week, is considered an old man on the Senators roster.

There are no guarantees Ceci will stick with the Senators long-term, of course. Once again, he’s a pending restricted free agent, with arbitration rights.

MCKENNA’S MUSINGS: After taking in Barclays Centre for the first time Friday, McKenna says he is closing in on having played in 100 arenas during his professional career. “I think it’s the mid 90’s somewhere,” he said. “One day, I would like to go back and track all the junior and college rinks, too.”…Ever so gradually, Boucher plans on giving rookie defenceman Christian Jaros more time on the power play. “He’s got a bomb,” said Boucher.

WIN SOME, LOSE SOME: The Islanders did lose the highest-profile free agent player last summer, when John Tavares went to the Toronto Maple Leafs. But they made the smartest free agent coaching signing, bringing in Barry Trotz after he won the Stanley Cup with Washington. The Islanders were three points shy of a playoff a spot before meeting the Senators, but how many experts suggested that the largely no-name Islanders would be comfortably above the .500 mark (19-13-4) at this point? “They’re disciplined, very much the type of team that you would expect out that coaching staff, well prepared,” said McKenna.

BELL CAPITAL CUP VETERAN LOG: With Washington coming to Canadian Tire Centre Saturday at this time of year, Capitals winger Devante Smith-Pelly will be rehashing his memories of playing in the Bell Capital Cup. Amazingly, all 31 NHL teams have at least one player who participated in the tournament. The Senators lead the way, with Ceci, Mark Borowiecki, Dylan DeMelo, Matt Duchene, Ryan Dzingel and Chris Tierney all having taken part at one point as minor hockey players.



1-Stone cold turnover: Adam Pelech should know better. If there’s one guy who is going to steal the puck, it’s Mark Stone.

2-Turning the tables: In exactly the same spot of the ice, Mike McKenna coughed up the puck to Mathew Barzal, leading directly to Josh Bailey’s goal. Barzal added a pair of third period goals.

3-Christmas is over: After a no-hitter of a first period, emotions and nastiness returned in the second. The game closed with three last-minute fights.

4-Now you see him…Matt Duchene sidestepped an attempted Johnny Boychuk hit, then ripped a shot over Greiss’s shoulder for the Senators second goal.

5-Icing on the cake: Cody Ceci celebrated his 400th NHL game by scoring the Senators third ogal.



Mathew Barzal #13 of the New York Islanders celebrates his goal at 4:51 of the third period against the Ottawa Senators at the Barclays Center on December 28, 2018 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.

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New York Islanders goaltender Thomas Greiss, front left, and defenseman Scott Mayfield (24) defend against Ottawa Senators center Chris Tierney (71) during the first period of an NHL hockey game, Friday, Dec. 28, 2018, in New York.

Noah K. Murray /




Skating in his 400th NHL game, Cody Ceci #5 of the Ottawa Senators celebrates his second period goal against the New York Islanders at the Barclays Center on December 28, 2018 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.

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Josh Bailey #12 of the New York Islanders scores a second period goal against Mike McKenna #33 of the Ottawa Senators at the Barclays Center on December 28, 2018 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.

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New York Islanders celebrate after scoring a goal against Ottawa Senators goaltender Mike McKenna (33) during the third period of an NHL hockey game, Friday, Dec. 28, 2018, in New York.

Noah K. Murray /



Ross Johnston #32 of the New York Islanders engages Mark Borowiecki #74 of the Ottawa Senators during the second period at the Barclays Center on December 28, 2018 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.

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Ottawa Senators right wing Mark Stone (61) celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal against the New York Islanders during the first period of an NHL hockey game, Friday, Dec. 28, 2018, in New York.

Noah K. Murray /


Thomas Chabot #72 of the Ottawa Senators pauses after a second period hit by Matt Martin #17 of the New York Islanders at the Barclays Center on December 28, 2018 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.

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Matt Duchene #95 of the Ottawa Senators celebrates his power-play goal against the New York Islanders at 2:47 of the second period at the Barclays Center on December 28, 2018 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.

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