Rivalry week did not disappoint

Here’s how last week shaped-out for the Ottawa Senators:

Monday – 6-5 win vs Toronto

Wednesday – 2-1 loss vs Toronto

Thursday – 7-3 loss vs Toronto

Sunday – 3-2 win vs Montreal

That’s a two-win week for the Sens – a continuation of their trend in the right direction.

The week started with a bang. The 6-5 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs was a Senators fan’s dream.

The Maple Leafs had a 5-1 lead with one minute left in the second period. Somehow, they squandered the lead. Nick Paul scored, followed by Artem Zub, Connor Brown, and Evgeni Dadonov, who tied the game before icing it with the overtime winner.

Ottawa, the last-place team in the NHL, pulled off a five-goal comeback against first-place Toronto, which added another embarrassing loss to its collection. It was reminiscent of the defeat to Zamboni driver David Ayres (who reportedly might be the subject of a Disney movie) a year ago yesterday.

The 2-1 loss on Wednesday was hard-fought. The Senators gave themselves a chance to win. Losing 7-3 on Thursday was a reminder that this team remains very flawed. Even so, they fought until the very last minute.

It was that type of energy that helped them triumph in Sunday night’s game.

Ottawa allowed a goal to Montreal Canadiens centre Nick Suzuki 77 seconds into the game. A few weeks ago, that goal would have deflated the team. This time, they responded.

“When we had gotten down in the past, we started chasing the game… that’s not how you win in this league,” said goaltender Matt Murray who made 30 saves in the overtime win.

“We’re showing that we’re maturing little by little, game by game, and that’s huge.”

With a 2-2 score at the end of regulation, the Senators put on a dominant display in overtime. They outshot the Habs 6-0, and Brady Tkachuk once again played hero, scoring the overtime winner.

Ottawa head coach D.J. Smith was asked about Tkachuk’s impressive leadership qualities at 21 years old before the game. He responded:

“He leads with emotion first, he’s a win-at-all-costs kind of guy, he’ll do anything for the team . . . He’s a guy that drives the engine, that pushes us up front, that drags us into the battle when we don’t have it on some nights.”

The Senators haven’t had a captain since the Erik Karlsson trade in 2018. Should it be Brady Tkachuk? He continues to make a strong case, but Thomas Chabot, who’s signed for seven more seasons, is equally crucial to the team and offers a calmer temperament than Tkachuk, who needs a new contract before next season.

Expect one of the two to don the “C” in 2021-22 as the 10th captain in franchise history.

Elsewhere in the NHL:

Sid is no longer a kid

Sidney Crosby played his 1000th NHL game on Saturday. It’s hard to believe it, but “the Kid” is a veteran of 16 NHL seasons. Crosby has two Art-Ross Trophies, two Hart Trophies, and three Stanley Cups to his name. At 33 years old, he’s far from finished.

With 1283 points to his name, Crosby is already among the all-time greats. Only Wayne Gretzky, Steve Yzerman, Jaromir Jagr, and Jari Kurri had more points through 1000 games.

Auston Matthews: goal-scoring machine

Maybe we already knew this… he scored four goals at the Canadian Tire Centre in his first NHL game, after all. But what he’s doing right now is remarkable.

Matthews has 18 goals in 19 games to start the year.

His 23.1 shooting percentage might suggest that this level of production is unsustainable, but if you’re watching, you’ll understand why his shots are going in at that rate.

Check out this Dany Heatley-Esque goal versus the Sens:

More Sens:

Josh Norris, the unsung rookie

All the buzz has surrounded phenom Tim Stützle, with good reason, but second in rookie scoring with 11 points is Josh Norris. He had three points last week, including a goal in the win versus Montreal. The 21-year-old was acquired in the Erik Karlsson trade and won the AHL’s outstanding rookie award last season in Belleville. He’s also Brady Tkachuk’s best friend.

It’s safe to say Norris will be a big part of the Senators’ future.

Brannstrom continues to impress

Erik Brannstrom had a great game on Sunday versus Montreal, showing why he was such a coveted prospect when the Senators acquired him in the Mark Stone trade. His defence might still need work, but his offensive talent was on full display on the power play and on rushes like these:

The Week Ahead:

Tue., Feb. 23 vs Montreal (7:00 PM E.T.)

Thu., Feb. 25 vs Calgary (7:00 PM E.T.)

Sat., Feb. 27 vs Calgary (1:00 PM E.T.)

The Senators finally have a week at home. It kicks off with the Canadiens looking for revenge, followed by two games versus the Flames, the only Canadian team they have yet to face.

Photo: nhl.com/senators/video/recap