Ottawa Senators defenseman Thomas Chabot battles for the puck with Calgary Flames center Dillon Dube during the third period at Scotiabank Saddledome. Flames won 3-1.
Mike Riley (28), then with the Canadiens, battles Flames forward Milan Lucic in front of the net during a game on Dec. 19.
Calgary Flames Jakob Pelletier during warm-up before facing the Vancouver Canucks during pre-season NHL hockey in Calgary on Monday September 16, 2019. Al Charest / Postmedia
VANCOUVER — The Ottawa Senators took a break Sunday with an off-day as this tour through Western Canada continues here.
This one was probably as good for them mentally as it was physically.
Preparing to face the Vancouver Canucks Tuesday night at Rogers Arena in third game of this five game trip that started Friday afternoon with a 7-2 loss to the Minnesota Wild, the Senators are coming off their fourth straight loss after they dropped a 3-1 decision to the Calgary Flames Saturday night at the Saddledome.
Suddenly, scoring goals has become a big issue for the Senators and the club has scored only four times in its last 12 periods. They had opportunities against Calgary goalie David Rittich, but only Jean-Gabriel Pageau was able to solve him in the third period while several Ottawa players left the front of the net frustrated they couldn’t score.
At some point, general manager Pierre Dorion may opt go to get a forward similar to the Vladislav Namestnikov deal that can help this team in the immediate future, but the Senators are trying to be patient and giving players opportunities to succeed in expanded. The club likely won’t stray from that path.
The effort was way better than the club’s loss to the Wild so that was a step in the right direction and now they have to find a way to put the puck in the net consistently because this team has way too many guys in lengthy slumps that either haven’t scored or have only one goal in a long string of games.
For a team struggling to score, it’s hard to forget winger Brady Tkachuk looking to the sky in Calgary after he missed a wide open net behind Rittich that would have tied the game 1-1 midway through the second period.
“Those two games in Columbus (1-0 loss) and Boston (2-1 decision) we out-chanced both teams,” Smith said Saturday night in Calgary. “We had some clean looks (Saturday), we had some empty nets and they just haven’t gone in the net.
“We have some guys that haven’t found the net, but will find it in time. I don’t know what the chances are going to look like at the end of the night, but I think they’re going to be pretty even and I just think a really good player for them (Elias Lindholm) made a really good play on the (winning) goal and they win.”
That’s what the Senators need from their good players. Centre Colin White has one goal in 12 games since returning to the lineup while Connor Brown hasn’t scored in 15, Chris Tierney’s frustration has reached 18 games and the list goes on.
“We’re getting our chances,” said top defenceman Thomas Chabot, who has three goals and 15 points in 27 games this season. “We’re playing a really good defensive game right now and one thing we’ve got to do is put more traffic in front of the net and us as (defencemen) maybe get our shots through a little more to help our forwards get a couple of greasy ones in front.
“We want to be a solid two-way team and we’re doing that well right now but we’ve got to find a way to score more goals.”
Smith is hopeful somewhere the puck will starting going in the net more consistently because despite the struggles the club finished with an 8-8-0 record in November. It was one of Ottawa’s busiest months on the schedule and they came out at .500
“We’re trying to get back on winning some games,” said Pageau, an alternate captain. “We want to get back into that vibe and get that swagger back by winning. That’s what we’re trying to build right now by building our identity and our culture.
“What I like is everybody is pushing in the same direction right now. (Friday) we fell together (in the loss in Minny) and (Saturday) we bounced back together and that’s huge.”
The Senators are confident that if they don’t change the way they play then eventually the results are going to turn around. They can file the game in Calgary under the “Moral Victory” category because at the very lease they competed and nobody in the dressing room could say that after the way they came apart at the seams in Minnesota.
“To me it’s the process of competing and being team that works hard every night and we’re doing that,” said Smith. “We’ve had one-off every 10 games or so. We didn’t finish the month great, but those might have been some of our better games. We don’t come out with a win in Columbus, Boston or (Calgary), but these are games we easily could have won earlier in the season against other opponents.”
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