Senators lose Forsberg, Sanderson to injuries in thrilling loss to Oilers

Connor McDavid led the way for the Edmonton Oilers notching three points including his 42nd goal of the season as the Oilers trample the Ottawa Senators 6-3.

OTTAWA – The Ottawa Senators came into this game worried about the Edmonton Oilers power play.

In the end, it was two shorthanded goals that killed the Sens in a 6-3 matinee loss on Saturday.

Of far greater concern than the “L” was the injury suffered by Senators goaltender Anton Forsberg, who left the game on a stretcher late in the third period. Forsberg was trying to make a save on an Edmonton power play when Oilers forward Zach Hyman fell on him.

The Sens challenged for goalie interference on the play, but the ruling was that Hyman was pushed in by Ottawa defenceman Travis Hamonic.

The injury to Forsberg silenced the capacity crowd of 20,041 and took the life out of what had been a wildly entertaining game. A big, strong, tough guy, Forsberg was grimacing in pain as he left the ice with an apparent injury to his leg after he got twisted up with Hyman.

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Hyman felt terrible about the incident.

“Oh, it’s awful,” he said. “You hear him go down, you hear him in pain. I can’t do anything else. I can’t do anything. I’m just stuck on him because there’s a guy who’s on top of me pushing me in, right? If you watch the replay, I try to avoid him and all of a sudden I get a cross-check in the back. It’s not a fun play to be part of. I almost stopped playing there, because I locked eyes and he was just in pain. I hope he gets better soon. Just a tough play.”

To make matters worse, Ottawa’s brilliant rookie defenceman, Jake Sanderson, also left the game in the third period with an undisclosed injury. Head coach D.J. Smith had no updates on either player afterward, but clearly Forsberg is going to be out for a while.

And with veteran Cam Talbot still injured, that leaves Belleville prospects Mads Sogaard and Kevin Mandolese as Ottawa’s goaltending tandem for the moment. Sogaard stopped all three shots he faced in the final five-plus minutes of Saturday’s game.

“With Talbot out, Sogaard is in a tough spot here,” Smith said. “But, you know, sometimes you get forced into these things and you find out in a hurry (if you’re ready). He’s a good goalie, so he’s going to get an opportunity if Forsy can’t go.”

Smith was lamenting a couple of big mistakes that cost the Sens in this game. Trailing 4-3, with a chance to tie it on the power play, the Senators allowed a shorthanded goal by Derek Ryan, to put the game away for Edmonton. That came at 7:24 of the third, just four minutes after allowing Jesse Puljujarvi to skate in on the right side and beat Forsberg with a low shot inside the far post.

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“We haven’t made those mistakes in the past four games, when we’ve been winning,” said Smith, alluding to the four-game winning streak the Senators had before the break.

Given the long layoff before and after the All-Star Game, this matinee figured to be problematic. While Edmonton was back in action with two games this week (a win in Detroit Tuesday and shootout loss to Philadelphia Thursday), the Sens hadn’t played since Jan. 31.

It didn’t take long for the wondrous Connor McDavid to make his appearance felt. Sensing that No. 97 was in the vicinity of the net, Hyman just threw a puck wide of the net, where McDavid played it off the carom and threw it at Forsberg’s feet. The puck veered off Forberg and in, further proof that McDavid is dangerous from anywhere, including behind the red line.

The visitors had numerous chances to extend their lead, with two power-play opportunities in the first period. But the No. 1-ranked unit came up empty, despite the best efforts of McDavid, who rushed up ice on one sequence, broke in alone on the left side and fired a shot at Forsberg.

“Fans in the building just got their money’s worth on their ticket,” one reporter said in the press box after that burst up ice by 97. Oh, but McDavid was just getting started.

Many of those fans wore orange and blue throughout the building, not that the home team didn’t have its support.

We often talk about the improved competitiveness of the Senators – should they be higher up the standings at this point? Perhaps, but the improved attendance numbers are beyond debate.

This matinee game against Edmonton was Ottawa’s ninth sellout of the season, with several more in the 17,000 range, just shy of capacity.

Both the home and invading fan bases were looking for more goals after that 1-0 first period. They got them.

The Oilers outshot the Senators 14-7 in the first, and yet the Sens had to be pleased to be down just a goal after their first period of action in 11 days.

“First period, we expected that – it’s their third game after the break and our first game,” said Senators captain Brady Tkachuk, who traded punches with Evander Kane in a fierce second-period bout.

“So, we expected their push, their jump. Our second period gave us a chance in the third, it’s just a couple of costly mistakes ended up in the back of the net.”

The fans got their wish for offence in period two as the teams scored five times, three by the Senators, who kept hanging around.

Sanderson put a low shot past Jack Campbell to tie the game at 1-1, but Hyman restored the Edmonton lead on a penalty shot, quickly shifting to his backhand before lifting the puck over Forsberg.

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On a ridiculous solo effort by McDavid while shorthanded, the visitors moved up 3-1. McDavid checked Thomas Chabot in the Ottawa end, stole the puck, spun and fired a no-look backhand pass to Ryan McLeod, who fired it home.

Witnesses barely caught their breath from that display, when the Senators scored on that same power play, a puck veering in off Claude Giroux in the goal crease.

And then the unexpected – Erik Brannstrom scored his first goal in 120 games.

Brannstrom, who skates beautifully and does get shots away, had not scored all season before his wrister from the top of the circle beat Campbell to the glove side.

After the game, Brannstrom said it felt good to finally score, but his deadpan voice gave away his deep concern for friend and fellow Swede Forsberg.

“It sucks,” Brannstrom said. “I haven’t heard an update yet, but I’m feeling it for Forsy – he’s close to me, too. Yeah, it sucks.”

The captain had high praise for his fallen goalie.

“Just the way he takes care of himself, on and off the ice, his preparation and how great of a pro he is – how good of a person he is,” Tkachuk said.

“You never like to see (an injury like) that. He’s a leader and it just sucks to see that.”

The Oilers outshot the Senators 40-29. The two teams came into the game ranked 1-2 on the power play but it hardly showed. Top-ranked Edmonton finished 1-for-5 and the No. 2 Sens were 1-for-4.

McDavid and Leon Draisaitl combined for five points. Draisaitl finished with eight shots, but failed to bury any of them. He settled for two assists to go with No. 97’s 1-plus-2.

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