Saturday, August 13, 2022

GARRIOCH: Moment of silence for Melnyk before Senators play hard but lose to Preds

“It was an emotional start to this two-game road trip for the Senators.”

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Predators 4, Senators 1

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There was a moment of silence for Eugene Melnyk in the Music City on Tuesday night.

The Nashville Predators made a posh gesture by honoring the memory of the late Ottawa Senators owner before the puck was dropped at the Bridgestone Arena.

“His passion for hockey and the Senators was boundless,” the public speech announcer told the crowd. “Whether it was at the track with his beloved Senators or in the community with his philanthropy, he cared a lot for the game, his team and the improvement of the lives of those in need.

“Our thoughts and deepest sympathy are with the Melnyk family and the entire organization.”

Less than 24 hours after Melnyk lost his battle with a long illness, the team he wanted to encourage as the club’s most passionate fan wore his initials “EM” on the back of their helmets to ensure Melnyk did not forget will not be.

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And although the Senators went into one of the toughest buildings in the league and gave the Predators everything the club could handle, Ottawa dropped a 4-1 decision with goalkeeper Anton Forsberg in the net.

It was an emotional start to this two-game road trip for the Senators. The 62-year-old Melnyk struggled with an unknown illness, but he was intensely private and the news came as a surprise to many in the room.

Before facing the Predators, the Senators hoped to pay homage to his memory with a strong effort and they did not disappoint.

“We are certainly playing with heavy hearts,” captain Brady Tkachuk told reporters in Nashville on Tuesday morning. “We just have to make our best effort. Especially since there have to be a lot of eyes on us today.

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“We want to make sure that we play well and Mr. Melnyk honored with a good match. He will definitely be missed. “

The Senators have not won in Nashville since January 11, 2014 with a 2-1 victory over the shooting. Ottawa has been 0-5-0 in its last five games on Broadway Boulevard, and that speaks to how dominant Nashville is at home.

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The Senators did not disappoint with the pressure the club put on the Predators. It was a one-goal game in the third period until Tanner Jeannot scored at 10:18 to put it out of reach by giving Nashville a two-goal lead.

Only Tkachuk could score for the Senators when the club lost its second in a row. The Senators have scored just two wins in their last nine games, but that is not for lack of trying. The club struggles to score consistently and that was another example of that.

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With a 46-point effort in a 4-3 overtime loss to the Florida Panthers at home on Saturday, the Senators were certainly better defensively, but just could not capitalize on their opportunities.

Much credit goes to Nashville goalkeeper Jusse Saros because the Senators were parked on the doorstep several times and he closed the door.

“I think we dusted them off and we probably overplayed them,” coach DJ Smith said. “We had a lot of chances, but we have to find ways to score points.”

A defensive break resulted in Nashville pulling out after a 2-1 lead with 1:46 left in the second. Michael McCarron scored his second from the front when it appeared he hit on a shot that hit Forsberg five-hole.

McCarron was alone ahead, which can not happen because the goal gave the Predators momentum to go into the third. Connor Brown had a chance to tie it with a penalty kick 7.2 seconds left in the period.

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He had the shot bounced off by Nashville defender Roman Josi on a short-handed breakaway and then Brown missed on the shot attempt.

Until the Predators took the lead, the Senators went head-to-head with Nashville. By 40 minutes, the club won 1-for-5 with the man advantage and that was the difference in this one.

Saros was the key by making some great stops. This is not to say that the fact that the club was behind was on Forsberg, but the Senators overwhelmingly outscored the Predators and trailed behind.

Nashville tied it at 1-1 with 39 seconds left in the first. Forsberg went out to play a shooter who got stuck in trapezoid, trying to rush back to his net and could not get there in time to stop McCarron on a wrap.

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The Senators started early with three straight penalty goals at Nashville and an early 5-on-3. Ottawa called a rare early timeout and seconds later Tkachuk diverted it through Saros.

It was Tkachuk’s 23rd of the season and it came at 4:53 of the first.

“I thought for a lot of the game we played pretty well. We played hard, it’s a good team there. They are very active, “said Ottawa wing Austin Watson.

The flags at the Canadian Tire Center were lowered to half-mast on Tuesday morning. The senators will pay tribute to Melnyk before their home game against the Detroit Red Wings Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m.

Fans will have a chance to pay their respects to the man who saved this franchise from bankruptcy in 2003 when the senators may have moved to the United States.

The senators will face the Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena on Friday night to conclude this road trip.

BGarrioch@postmedia.com

Twitter: @sungarrioch

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