The Ottawa Senators snapped a run of four straight defeats with a 7-4 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday (April 8), with rookie forward Egor Sokolov scoring for the first time in the NHL.
Alex DeBrincat and Mark Kastelic both produced two-point performances on a bounce-back night for the Senators, who crashed out of playoff contention earlier in the week. Cam Talbot offered a 20-save display behind an inexperienced blue line, outduelling Brian Elliott – who made 33 stops for the Lightning.
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“You have to give credit to the leaders and older guys to have the team ready,” said head coach D.J. Smith. “It’s obviously disappointing to have not made the playoffs but they’re going to work right until the end.”
Here are three takeaways from the Senators’ win over the playoff-bound Lightning, as they attempt to round out the season on a high in the Eastern Conference.
Senators’ Egor Sokolov Scores First NHL Goal
Sokolov netted his first goal for the Senators with the confidence of a former second-round pick. The 22-year-old stole the puck from Erik Cernak in the offensive zone, set his eyes on the net, and made a smart play to beat Elliott through the five-hole.
“I still can’t believe it, it doesn’t feel real to me,” Sokolov said. “I’ve got like a hundred messages on my phone. I kind of teared up a little bit, I’ll be honest with you.”
Sokolov was a solid performer for the Senators throughout, drawing praise from the coaching staff for his recent play.
“He’s worked hard, led the team in scoring down there [in the American Hockey League], and deserves his first goal,” said Smith.
While the Russian only recorded seven minutes in ice time, he played with poise on the fourth line alongside Kastelic and Julien Gauthier and could play an important role for the Senators in the final week of the season.
Senators’ Rookie Defenceman Tyler Kleven Makes Steady Progress
Tyler Kleven has been a breath of fresh air for the Senators since he recorded an assist in his debut versus the Philadelphia Flyers last month. While the 21-year-old’s ice time has fallen since then, his form continues to impress.
“I’ve loved his game,” explained Smith. “He’s big, long, rangy, smart, and can pass the puck. I think he’s going to be a real good player for a long time for us.”
Kleven, a 6-foot-4 behemoth drafted from the University of North Dakota, projects as a top-four defensive defenceman. He established a reputation as a hard-hitting defender in the NCAA, with offensive production considered secondary to his ability as a destroyer.
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The American made two hits against the Lightning and looked comfortable on the third pair alongside former college teammate Jacob Bernard-Docker and is poised to play an important role for the team in future seasons.
In his final season at the University of North Dakota, Kleven recorded 18 points (eight goals, 10 assists) in 35 games, showcasing his offensive potential as well. However, his real value lies in his defensive prowess, as he consistently shuts down opposing players and makes life difficult for them in the offensive zone.
With the Senators in need of defensive depth and physicality, Kleven has the potential to become a key piece in their lineup in the coming years. His combination of size, strength, and defensive ability make him a valuable asset for a team looking to build a strong defensive foundation.
Furthermore, his offensive potential adds an additional dimension to his game, making him a well-rounded defenseman who can contribute in all areas of the ice.
Senators’ Brady Tkachuk Reaches 80-Point Plateau
Brady Tkachuk’s performance against the Lightning was a shining example of his importance to the Senators. In that game, he recorded an assist and was a commanding presence both five-on-five and on the powerplay.
Tkachuk’s impact was felt early and often, as he played a key role in creating scoring chances for his team. He used his speed and physicality to gain possession of the puck and drive to the net, creating space and opportunities for his linemates. His ability to make plays in tight spaces and his willingness to battle in front of the net made him a constant threat to the Lightning’s defence.
In addition to his impressive offensive production, which includes 35 goals and 45 assists for a total of 80 points this season, Tkachuk also plays a vital role in the team’s overall strategy. He is a leader both on and off the ice, and his work ethic and competitive spirit inspire his teammates to give their all in every game.
Tkachuk joins Tim Stützle in the 80-point club, ending the Senators’ 15-season run without multiple players hitting the milestone.
What Next for the Ottawa Senators?
The Senators will finish their season with games against the Carolina Hurricanes and the Buffalo Sabres. Although they will miss the playoffs this year, the team seems determined to finish strong and show their resilience and determination in these final games.
It will be interesting to see how Smith approaches each of the games, with fitness and sharpness key considerations as he experiments with his roster in the final week of the season.