Giroux impresses in leading Senators to win over Jets
OTTAWA — With the Ottawa Senators and Winnipeg Jets hitting the halfway mark of the NHL pre-season, time is running short for players to make an impression.
The Senators improved to 3-1-0 following their 3-1 win over the Jets Friday night, and there was enough for coach D.J. Smith to like.
Claude Giroux’ second period goal held up as the winner and Vladimir Tarasenko had an empty-net goal, but both of them were already counted on to score goals.
Seeing Roby Järventie pick up his second of the pre-season and watching goaltender Kevin Mandolese stop all 19 shots he faced, and Leevi Merilainen giving up one goal on 16 shots, was more likely to catch Smith’s attention.
“I thought Roby was good,” said Smith. “Continues to score, makes plays and he’s checking away from the puck and you don’t see him on the ice for a ton against, at this point.”
He also commented on how good both goalies played.
What Smith didn’t like was how many chances the Jets had in the third period when Ottawa held a one-goal lead.
“I thought there were some good efforts by some guys and some really bad puck decisions by some other guys,” said Smith. “It’s exhibition, but you can’t give up those kinds of chances in the third period and expect to win when the games count.”
Winnipeg coach Rick Bowness knew this would likely be a tough challenge for his team after travelling to the nation’s capital earlier in the day.
“It’s a tough day to fly here from Winnipeg and you lose the hour and you get off the plane and go play,” said the Jets coach. “I was very happy with the effort of the guys. We knew it was going to take a period to get our legs underneath us, but after we got skating I thought we did a lot of good things.”
Jansen Harkins had the lone goal for the Jets, while Laurent Brossoit made 31 saves.
The challenge for the Jets was evident in the first period as Ottawa dominated much of the play allowing the trio of Giroux, Tim Stützle and Tarasenko to create a number of chances.
The pace picked up in the second and it was the Jets who opened the scoring two minutes in.
Axel Jonsson-Fjallby had a great chance, but shot just wide. He managed to get his own rebound off the back boards and fed Harkins out front for his second of the pre-season.
It wasn’t a great look for the Senators young Lassi Thomson who got caught out front, but Smith said it’s something he needs to learn from.
“Have a short memory,” said Smith. “He’s a young kid and it won’t be the last time so just keep getting better.”
Ottawa didn’t take long to tie the game. Just 30 seconds later Järventie came down the wing and put a shot off his backhand that beat Brossoit short side.
“I just tried to get it on net and it was lucky it went in,” admitted Järventie. “As offensive players it’s always nice to score goals, especially in an NHL jersey. It’s a pre-season game, but it’s a dream come true to score goals in here and I hope to get more of them.”
With 18.3 seconds remaining in the period Harkins had a turnover just inside his own blue line allowing Giroux to walk in and roof it over Brossoit.
“Obviously, it was the wrong place to give it to the wrong player, but that’s hockey,” said Harkins. “You’re going to make mistakes and we tried to bounce back in the third and I think we put some good pressure on in the third and had a couple good chances myself.”
Harkins is just one of many Jets fighting to be an NHL regular and knows he can’t get hung up on mistakes, but also knows he needs to leave an impression, and preferably a good one.
“I think there’s lots of urgency,” admitted Harkins. “That’s kind of been my focus, at least from the start of camp. … Every time you step on the ice, practice, games, it’s going to be your opportunity to make something happen.”
Bowness wouldn’t provide a timeline for when he would reduce his numbers and just said “soon.”
Following the game the Senators assigned a number of players to their American Hockey League affiliate in Belleville and placed four players on waivers including Thompson, as well as Dillon Heatherington, Josh Currie and Garrett Pilon.
Tim Stützle was eight-years-old when Vladimir Tarasenko made his NHL debut and Friday night the two played together on the same line.
The Senators announced Friday morning that Steve Staios would be joining the team as president of hockey operations.
The Senators head to the Maritimes where they will take on the Florida Panthers in Sydney, N.S., on Sunday and play the Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday in Halifax, N.S.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 29, 2023.