SNAPSHOTS: The Senators hope to see Saturday’s atmosphere more often

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The Ottawa Senators made their point Saturday night.

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It didn’t finish on the right note, but after a pretty quiet two years at the Canadian Tire Center, it sure felt like this Hockey Night in Canada came complete with a dramatic finish and electricity in the building.

With 17,201 in the building on Country Night — the largest crowd of the season — the atmosphere in the rink was electric, interactive and fun as the Senators dropped a 4-3 shootout decision to the Florida Panthers.

If you think the Senators didn’t notice the noise from the faithful, then think again and they just wished that Aleksander Barkov hadn’t scored his second of the night in the shootout to give the Panthers the victory.

After playing in an empty rink all of last season and going a large part of this campaign without anybody in the building in January and February, the Senators talked a lot about feeding off the energy of the fans.

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This was the kind of atmosphere the Senators wish they could have on every night and it didn’t hurt that Anton Forsberg stole the show with a 46-save effort.

“They outplayed us and they had a lot more shots than we did, but that’s what they are. They’re a puck-possession team that’s really fast and offensive,” said center Josh Norris, who had a tremendous chance in OT. “I thought the crowd was great. They really stuck with us and were really emotional.

“That was a great game, if you’re a fan, to be at. The overtime was fun for them to watch and it’s nice to have a crowd like that every night so hopefully we can keep having crowds like that.”

The Senators have struggled mightily to get people through the gates this season. The provincial restrictions in Ontario and having a bunch of games rescheduled because of COVID-19 didn’t help matters one bit.

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The club played three games in January with zero fans in the building and five home games in February with 500 people in the 18,652-seat facility. Like every part of the world, the organization is also trying to navigate its way towards normal and the pandemic isn’t over yet.

Not everyone’s comfortable going into a large facility just yet, but it sure felt like Saturday night was about as normal as we’ve seen in two years.

“That’s without a doubt the most offensive team in the league. We stayed with it long enough, we checked and Forsberg, let’s make no mistake how good he was,” coach DJ Smith said.

“Without the fans (Saturday), you’re probably in trouble. You could see for the first time since COVID-19, the fans were pushing our guys to find another gear and how hard we played. It’s unfortunate we didn’t win because we had so many chances overtime, but we know where we’ve got to get to.”

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COVID-19 has made the past two years feel like an eternity. It hasn’t helped that the Senators haven’t been nearly as competitive this season as expected, but injuries and two bouts with the virus put a damper in those plans.

Looking around the building Saturday night, the club’s record didn’t seem to matter one bit. It felt like people were just there to have fun and enjoy whatever life has to offer.

Smith has said several times this season that fans need to look no further than the likes of Brady Tkachuk, Tim Stuetzle, Drake Batherson, Alex Formenton, Thomas Chabot and Norris to know this club is in good shape down the road.

“If you’re an Ottawa Senators’ fan that’s pretty exciting to watch Timmy and the boys flying out there with scoring chances up and down the ice,” Smith said. “It’s a coach’s nightmare and you want to be a little bit less than that.

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“But if I’m a fan these are these are the stars of the future. This is my (eighth) year in the league and I remember Barkov when he was (younger). He was a good player but he isn’t what he is today. That’s going to be Norris, Timmy and these guys, so that’s exciting.”

The Senators are hopeful with the right pieces in place the rink will be like this 41 nights a year. This one had a playoff atmosphere.

As Smith noted there’s promise and hope ahead.

“It was a great crowd and a great atmosphere to play in,” Forsberg said. “This is probably the best lineup in the league. Those are the teams you want to compete with and that’s the fun games to play so it was fun to be out there.”


The Senators made one roster move Sunday by sending goaltender Filip Gustavsson back to the club’s AHL affiliate in Belleville.

The club recalled Mads Sogaard from Belleville and he’ll accompany the Senators on the two-game trip that begins Tuesday in Nashville. Dorion told reporters that Sogaard will get a start a game or two before the end of the season so expect to see him either Friday in Detroit or Sunday at home.

Sogaard has a 16-13-1 record with Belleville this season. He’s posted a 2.87 goals-against average and a .906 save-percentage.

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