Ottawa Senators’ odd-man rushes sink Lightning

Giving up opportunities off the rush has been a recurring issue for Tampa Bay early this season.
Ottawa Senators goaltender Craig Anderson (41) scoops the puck up in front of Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Nikita Kucherov (86) as Senators defenseman Nikita Zaitsev (22) defends during the first period Saturday.
Ottawa Senators goaltender Craig Anderson (41) scoops the puck up in front of Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Nikita Kucherov (86) as Senators defenseman Nikita Zaitsev (22) defends during the first period Saturday. [ FRED CHARTRAND | AP ]
Published Oct. 13, 2019|Updated Oct. 13, 2019

OTTAWA — Odd-man rushes pull people out of their seats. They’re fast, and they lead to scoring chances. The Lightning’s first few games have demonstrated exactly why — for the other team.

The Lightning have been hurt by odd-man rushes, and the Senators made theirs count Saturday.

Ryan McDonagh pointed to the Lightning’s passing and decision making as their issues in a 4-2 loss.

All the Senators’ goals came on the rush (though the final one, an empty-netter, doesn’t seem to count). In two of those situations, the Senators had the numbers advantage.

Related: MORE LIGHTNING: Get to know Alex Killorn. Carolina is the real deal. Early trip gives the team a chance to bond.

“There’s no doubt they can skate,” McDonagh said. “They have speed, and they force you to really anticipate your next play quick”

First, Ottawa caught the Lightning (2-2-1) in a bad line change. Bobby Ryan threw an outlet pass up to Brady Tkachuk, giving the Senators a three-on-two. Tkachuck beat McDonagh at the blue line and then fed the puck over the Colin White, who roofed it over Curtis McElhinney’s glove for a 1-0 lead at 13:44 of the second period.

In the final minute of the period, the Senators beat the Lightning on a two-on-four. While former Lightning forward Vladislav Namestnikov took the puck up the ice, Jean-Gabriel Pageau flew up the center behind three Lightning players and posted up in front of the net. Namestnikov hit him with a pass, and Pageau scored easily for a 2-1 lead.

Namestnikov scored a goal of his own late in the third. The Senators chipped the puck out of their zone, and Lightning defenseman Braydon Coburn lined up to play it like he was waiting for a fly ball.

Coburn bobbled the puck on its way down, and Ottawa’s Connor Brown picked it up, creating a two-on-one alongside Namestnikov. Brown slid the puck over to Namestnikov at the back door, and Namestnikov scored what ended up being the winner.

Related: MORE LIGHTNING: Sign up for our Lightning Strikes newsletter to get all the news and exclusive analysis in your inbox

“Little unlucky break on the game-winner there,” coach Jon Cooper said. “Can’t give them up, bottom line.”

Cooper didn’t think his team gave up a lot of rushes, just that the ones it did give up turned into goals.

That’s similar to what he said after the season-opening win over the Panthers about most of the 37 shots on goal the Lightning gave up: They weren’t quality scoring chances, but the ones that were of quality were doozies.

Many of those doozies were on odd-man rushes. This has been a recurring theme for the Lightning in this season’s small sample size of games.

Many of those plays started in the offensive zone, Alex Killorn pointed out. There might have been a turnover or someone the Lightning lost sight of.

“We’re trying to get greedy. We’re trying to score a goal,” he said. “We have to realize that we have to take care of our own zone.”

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Flow on the ice can change quickly, so when a team loses possession in the offensive zone, players need to be aware of where opponents are so they can get back quickly. That comes back to the defensive awareness the Lightning have been talking about needing but haven’t consistently achieved.

Getting too fancy can lead to turnovers, which can lead to rushes, which can lead to goals.

The little mistakes the Lightning have made in the first couple of games are fixable, not something to worry about. But they can start to add up.

Contact Diana C. Nearhos at Follow @dianacnearhos.

Senators 0-2-2—4

Lightning 0-1-1—2

First—None. Penalties—DeMelo, OTT, Major (fighting), 5:00 Gourde, TB, Major (fighting), 5:00 Sabourin, OTT, (holding), 10:04 Sabourin, OTT, (interference), 12:13 Palat, TB, (tripping), 18:32.

Second—1, Ottawa, White 1 (Ryan, Tkachuk), 13:44. 2, Tampa Bay, Palat 3 (Johnson), 14:21. 3, Ottawa, Pageau 1 (Namestnikov), 19:33. Penalties—Brannstrom, OTT, (interference), 2:37 Tampa Bay bench, served by Maroon (too many men on the ice), 5:15 Cernak, TB, (closing hand on the puck), 6:46 Point, TB, Major (fighting), 9:15 Pageau, OTT, Major (fighting), 9:15.

Third—4, Tampa Bay, Witkowski 1 (Sergachev, Maroon), 8:56. 5, Ottawa, Namestnikov 1 (Chabot, Brown), 16:57. 6, Ottawa, Namestnikov 2 (Pageau, Zaitsev), 19:38. Penalties—Witkowski, TB, (cross checking), 11:30 Tkachuk, OTT, (hooking), 11:50.

Shots on Goal—Tampa Bay 5-10-6_21. Ottawa 12-13-9_34. Power-play opportunities—Tampa Bay 0 of 4 Ottawa 0 of 4. Goalies—Tampa Bay, McElhinney 0-1-1 (33 shots-30 saves). Ottawa, Anderson 1-2-0 (21-19). A—11,023 (18,572). T—2:28. Referees—Wes McCauley, Corey Syvret. Linesmen—Steve Barton, David Brisebois.