Cris Carter reveals why Kirk Cousins absolutely made the right choice with the Minnesota Vikings

This was the strangest of games. When I sat down to watch this game, in the midst of a winter storm with my lights flickering ominously and my power cutting out every few minutes, I did not expect to witness an Ottawa Senators win. Who expects to witness an Ottawa Senators win in 2018? Those things do not happen very often.

You know what happens even less frequently? The Sens winning on a night when Im writing the recap. I dont know how to react. Should I be happy about this? Should I be upset that this team is ruining its draft position? How does one react to an Ottawa Senators win?

A bit of Florida sunshine has been good for the Ottawa Senators. The team returns home after back to back wins against the Florida Panthers and the top ranked Tampa Bay Lightning. WIth a huge gap in the standings, the Sens pummeled the Bolts 7-4 last night, their second big win against Tampa Bay this season.

Video: Jon Cooper — Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Ottawa Senators 03/13/18

Cheapseats: Senators having an influence on Eastern Conference wild card race

Thats the thing about cheering for a team this bad, you see. You can be sad no matter what happens. It is truly the most authentic sports fan experience.

Tampa Bays speed was on display right from the start of the game, and it came as no surprise when J.T. Miller opened the scoring just four minutes in. The Sens were caught flat-footed, Karlsson lost a few puck battles, and the Lightning were just too fast. It was a familiar, almost comforting sight. In this unpredictable world, its nice to know that we can always count on the Senators allowing the first goal in any given game.

On Monday night, the Sens got a pair of goals late in the third period from Matt Duchene and J-P Pageau to beat the Florida Panthers 5-3.

Quick Strikes: Boston Bruins starting to breathe down the Tampa Bay Lightnings neck

Equally familiar was the way in which the Sens completely collapsed around their own net afterward, allowing the Lightning to walk right over them.

Now back home, the Sens host the Dallas Stars Friday night at the CTC and travel to Columbus to play the Blue Jackets on St. Paddys Day.

Shockingly, the Sens actually fought back. Pageau sent a nice pass to Pyatt, springing him on a breakaway, and Magnus Paajarvi tapped the puck into the net to even the score. The team looked much better after that, and soon a Sens power play gave Ryan Dzingel an opportunity to score his 20th goal of the season and give Ottawa the lead.

Now, I kid you not, at the very second that Ryan Dzingels shot went into the net, the power in my building shut off completely and I missed a solid five minutes of gameplay, including, apparently, a goal by Tom Pyatt, while I was sitting in the dark waiting for the wifi to start working again. I mention this because even though I am not a superstitious person, I feel like this may have been an omen of some sort. Did the very fabric of the universe tear when the Ottawa Senators took a lead over a much better team? Did this goal signal a reversal of the Sens fortunes? Will Erik Karlsson re-sign during the summer? Will Melnyk sell the team to Daniel Alfredsson? Or does it just mean that theyre going to play themselves out of a good draft pick? The timing was too perfect for me not to mention it.

Anyways, I returned just in time to see the Sens make a few good plays and generally look a lot better than they did at the start of the game. It was weird. Alex Burrows took a penalty with about a minute and a half left, but Tampa failed to score, and the Sens ended the period up 3-1.

Hoffman scores twice, Senators win 7-4 to stop Lightning run

Of course, one of the most important rules about the Ottawa Senators is that a good first period must always be followed by an awful second. Right as the Burrows penalty expired, Paajarvi took a very obvious tripping penalty, and the Lightning cut the Sens lead in half on the ensuing powerplay. A few minutes later, it was Ottawas turn with the man advantage, and Marian Gaborik of all people scored his first goal since his season debut. Cool, I guess?

Hoffman scores twice, Sens stop Lightnings run

Tampa Bay continued to dominate play afterward, even though the score was fairly lopsided in favour of Ottawa. With just over 6 minutes left, Mike Hoffman made it 5-2 with a beautiful shot off a rebound. It was also his 20th goal of the season. I guess its nice to see him and Dzingel pad their stats even if the games are meaningless? Cheering for a bottom feeder is weird.

Also, Erik Burgdoerfer got his first NHL point on the play, and I dont want to go into more conspiracy theories here but this guys first name is Erik and his last name kind of sounds like Burger and we all know this teams history with hamburgers.

Almost immediately after the Hoffman goal, the Lightning got a 2 man advantage and J.T. Miller scored his third goal of the night, for his first career hat trick. Theres another constant of Sens hockey: handing out career milestones!

Even in a game as strange as this one, they still found ways to make us feel at home. I appreciate that.

The Lightning continued to dominate play for the next two minutes, until Erik Karlsson got the puck, tried to pass it to a teammate in the offensive zone, and ended up bouncing it off Chris Kunitzs skate and straight into the Tampa Bay net. Is Chris Kunitz on a one-man mission to deny us nice things? Gotta ask the question.

The Sens started the third period on a relatively good note, controlling the play a lot more than they did in the first and second. Hoffman made the score 7-3 less than four minutes in off a slightly flukey goal. It was the Sens highest goal total all season, to the surprise of absolutely no one. Karlsson also got an assist on the goal, moving him up to 2nd in scoring among defensemen, only 3 points behind John Klingberg.

The play was mostly even for the rest of the game, with Tampa of course looking much faster and better all-around. With about 7 minutes left, Ryan McDonagh scored his first goal as a member of the Lightning, but of course it was not enough to spark a comeback. Actually, I dont know why I said of course there, because I would not have been at all surprised if the Sens had found a way to lose this game. I truly feel like anything could have happened.

Im not surprised, and none of you should be either. Ive repeated myself ad nauseam about the Lightnings defensive issues. This team left Andrei Vasilevskiy out to dry this evening. Anyone carrying on about workload needs to stop and take a good look at this game. You can only blame Vasilevskiy on one goal—Dzingels goal (which, in all honesty, was just a damn good shot—those happen and sometimes a goalie cant do anything). However, lets not be lazy and jump on a narrative that completely ignores the real issue the Lightning have.

Even though the Lightning have gone 9-1-1 in their last 11, the Boston Bruins are right in our rearview mirror. [Tampa Bay Times]

It was the Lightnings first regulation loss in its last 11 games (9-1-1), and it was a costly one. The surging Bruins erased a three-goal, third-period deficit in Carolina, pulling within four points of first-place Tampa Bay. If Boston wins Thursday in Florida, Saturdays St. Patricks Day showdown in Tampa will be for the Atlantic Division lead.

Preview: Lightning try to avoid upset against visiting Senators

#tblightning Chris Kunitz: “We didnt come out and try to out compete them, we tried to outplay them. Weve got to dig deeper and commit to being a better, sound team.”

The Tampa Bay Lightning made a goalie swap yesterday, Louis Domingue is going to Syracuse while Peter Budaj is being activated from the IR. This doesnt appear to be a permanent swap but more of an opportunity for Domingue to get some reps with the Lightning carrying all three goalies by the weekend. [Raw Charge]

It will be interesting to see how this next stretch goes in net. If Domingue ends up back up with the Lightning, the last starts that he and Budaj get very well could be auditions for who ends up backing the team up in the playoffs. My personal belief is that Domingue will be back with the team and is the presumptive back-up going into the playoffs.

Its East vs. West. Young vs. Old. Russia vs. Finland. Andrei Vasilevskiy vs. Pekka Rinne. Who wins the Vezina? (The answer is probably Sergei Bobrovsky) [USA Today]

Rinne, meanwhile, made 32 saves in a 3-1 win against the Winnipeg Jets, whose goaltender, Connor Hellebuyck, is also in the Vezina mix. That moved the Predators past the Lightning into first place overall in the NHL. Both have 100 points, but Nashville has a game in hand.

Sammy Walker may be along one of the more rare paths to the NHL, but with his high school season over, his stock might have seen the most improvement. [Raw Charge]

Video: Tampa Bay Lightning hosting Hiring Our Heroes job fair expo at Amalie Arena on Tuesday

Sammy Walkers season ended with a loss in the Minnesota high school tournament, but he had an incredible post draft season, scoring 110 points in 66 games across three leagues.

Lightning Vs Senators Preview: Betting Odds, Predictions, TV | NHL 3/13/2018

In this weeks Crunch Corner, we look at Peter Budajs weekend in New York. [Raw Charge]

All eyes were on Peter Budaj as he made his Crunch debut on Friday. The results were…well…mixed. He only allowed two goals, but he also only faced 18 shots as the players in front of him went out of their way to block shots and make his return a bit easier.

After the game, the veteran goaltender admitted to the press that his timing was a little off. Thats to be expected after not seeing live game action in almost three-and-a-half months.

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