GARRIOCH: Sickly Senators start long road trip with loss to Tampa Bay


Battling a 24-hour flu bug that was making its way through the club’s dressing room, the Senators pushed, but in the end it wasn’t close.

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Lightning 5, Senators 2

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The Ottawa Senators were already sick to their stomachs before they faced the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday night.

This loss didn’t leave the Senators feeling much better.

Battling a 24-hour flu bug that was making its way through the club’s dressing room, the Senators pushed, but in the end it wasn’t close as the club dropped a 5-2 decision to the Tampa Bay Lightning at the Amalie Arena.

Only Zach Sanford and Tyler Ennis were able to beat Tampa Bay goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy in this one. While the Senators did a good job limiting the chances on Matt Murray, Ottawa went 0-for-4 on the power play and that was costly.

Mikhail Sergachev put this one away with his third of the season at 9:02 of the third while Brayden Point led the attack with a goal and three assists. The reality is the Bolts were just too powerful for the shorthanded Senators.

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This was a physical and sometimes nasty game.

Coming off a 2-1 loss to the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday at home, the Senators were kicking off this difficult five-game road trip against the two-time defending Stanley Cup champs and Ottawa wasn’t sure which players would be available.

Coach DJ Smith told reporters in Tampa on Tuesday morning as many as 10 players were battling the stomach virus that was making its way through the club’s dressing room. Top defenseman Thomas Chabot didn’t suit up Saturday and indicated Monday he had lost 13 pounds.

Zach Sanford of the Ottawa Senators celebrates a first-period goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena on March 1, 2022.
Zach Sanford of the Ottawa Senators celebrates a first-period goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena on March 1, 2022. Photo by Mike Ehrmann /Getty Images

Most of the players spent Tuesday trying to get some fluids and food back into them after the club canceled its skate in Tampa on Monday.

“We came out the way we had to, we just made some bad puck decisions that ended up in the back of our net,” said Smith. “We wanted to get out of the first period. We were a little better with the puck with the lead, but when we had to kill four straight (penalties), that kind of got us out of the game a little.

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“We stayed with it, but we had a couple go in that — I’m not sure — we’d want back, but give them credit because they kept doing the right things.”

The Senators came into this game with a 5-2-1 record in their last five games on the road. The club is struggling to find offense without injured center Josh Norris and winger Drake Batherson. The club has scored two goals or fewer in seven of its last 10 games.

Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Nikita Kucherov (86) shoots and scores against the Ottawa Senators during the first period.
Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Nikita Kucherov (86) shoots and scores against the Ottawa Senators during the first period. Photo by Kim Klement /USA TODAY Sports

The decision to start Murray was the right one after he stopped 30 of 32 against the Habs. He hasn’t been getting a lot of help lately with the club scoring only three goals in his last four starts.

After pulling out to a 2-0 lead in the first, the Senators allowed four unanswered goals and were down 4-2 after 40 minutes. Outshot 18-15 by the Bolts, Tampa Bay showed why it may be headed for a third straight title.

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The Bolts pulled out to a 4-2 lead on the strength of Corey Perry’s goal with 3:52 left in the second. He was able to push a puck Murray couldn’t cover into the net and you had the feeling the trouble was starting to snowball for the Senators.

Somehow the Senators emerged from a scrum, that included Josh Brown dropping the gloves with Pat Maroon, shorthanded and that led to the go-ahead goal by Steven Stamkos 5:18 into the second.

Stamkos fired a blast by Murray to give the Bolts a 3-2 advantage.

“That’s a good team over there and any time you come into this building, especially right now, they might be playing the best hockey in the NHL,” said center Colin White, who was one of those hit by the bug.

Andrei Vasilevskiy of the Tampa Bay Lightning stops a shot from Colin White of the Ottawa Senators in the third period.
Andrei Vasilevskiy of the Tampa Bay Lightning stops a shot from Colin White of the Ottawa Senators in the third period. Photo by Mike Ehrmann /Getty Images

If the Senators needed any evidence of how dangerous the Bolts are, the club got a pretty quick lesson after pulling out a 2-0 lead in the first. Goals by Point at 14:49 and Nikita Kucherov at 7:15 tied it up heading into the second.

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Both goals were the result of bad decisions by the Senators in their own end. You can’t let a guy like Kucherov walk untouched to the net and not think you’re going to end up with a bad result.

The Senators got off to an even better start than they could have predicted.

Alex Formenton of the Ottawa Senators and Anthony Cirelli of the Tampa Bay Lightning fight in the third period.
Alex Formenton of the Ottawa Senators and Anthony Cirelli of the Tampa Bay Lightning fight in the third period. Photo by Mike Ehrmann /Getty Images

Less than four minutes into the game, they’d recorded two goals on two shots on Vasilevskiy. Sanford scored his ninth of the season by firing a bouncing puck home from down low at 3:43.

Ennis went to the front of the net to tip Chabot’s from the point through Vasilevskiy’s five-hole only 1:11 into the game. That’s the 23rd time this season the Senators have scored the opening goal.

“I thought we let our foot off the gas a little bit and we let them back into the game,” said Sanford. “I’m not sure if the guys were tired or whatever it was, but I thought we kind of took a step back and they took over.

“They’re a great team and they’re going to keep going at you.”

Ottawa will face the Florida Panthers on Thursday night in Sunrise as this road trip continues.

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Twitter: @sungarrioch

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