The storylines coming into the opening round playoff series between the Ottawa Senators and Montreal Canadiens were always going to be about goaltending. The Vezina favorite, Carey Price, against the man known best as the Hamburglar – Andrew Hammond. However, the first two games of the series featured a combined 12 goals and two Montreal wins. While both games 1 and 2 were decided by 1 goal each, the high scoring contests favored the Canadiens. Entering game 3, Senators head coach, Dave Cameron, made the decision to go with veteran Craig Anderson over Hammond, and while the result did not go Cameron’s way, it felt as if Ottawa was at least playing their game.
Game 4 featured the same goaltending match-up and a tight checking affair, but this time a much better outcome for Ottawa. The Senators staved off elimination on the back of a 28 save shutout by Anderson, his third career playoff shutout. Rookie Mike Hoffman netted his first career playoff goal at 9:05 of the third period to give Anderson all the support he would need. Price had 31 saves of his own, but the series now heads back to the Bell Centre for game 5 on Friday.
The game began quickly for Montreal, getting 6 shots and a power play all before the Senators were able to test Price. Anderson was strong, allowing his team to find their game. After the initial surge by the Canadiens, the period ended with Montreal out-shooting Ottawa by only 2 shots and going 0 for 2 on the power play. Neither team showed great possession with stick checks, turnovers and odd-man rushes, keeping both goalies on their toes.
The second period had been the downfall for Ottawa in games 1-3, being outscored 6-2 and out-shot 52-26 so far in the series. But the middle stanza of game 4 was the turning point. Ottawa out-shot Montreal 11-10 and had 2 power plays of their own. But the save of the game for Anderson came on the second of those power plays when Montreal’s Brandon Prust found himself on a shorthanded breakaway. Anderson got his skate tight to the post to prevent Prust from scoring, keeping the game scoreless. By the end of the second period, Ottawa had the better end of play and only great saves from Price standing between them and a lead.
By the third period, it felt like one goal could be enough to either end or extend the series. The referees began to let the teams play, and while both had their chances, neither was able to take over the game. The deciding goal came after an innocuous dump-in by Ottawa. Price played the puck behind his net to defenseman Tom Gilbert. Gilbert was then pressured in the corner by Mika Zibanejad and forced to try to chip the puck up the boards. Senators’ defenseman Cody Cici was able to hold the zone and with the Canadiens moving forward, chip the puck to a wide open Hoffman at the circle who then beat Price glove side with Zibanejad providing a screen.
Minutes later, the same line had a great chance to increase Ottawa’s lead, but Price kept his team close with three point-blank saves at 11:23 of the period on Hoffman, Zibanejad and Cici in quick succession. However, the Canadiens were unable to get anything past Anderson, going 0 for 3 on the power play in the game, putting them at 1 for 16 in the series and defenseman PK Subban was held with only 2 shots.
Finally, the goaltending storyline that many had been hoping for has arrived in this series. It still seems like a tall task for Ottawa to overcome the 3-0 deficit as they head back to Montreal but it is safe to say that barring injury, the great story of Andrew Hammond may have come to an end and the Hamburglar will be resigned back to a fast food character.