By Aedan Helmer, Ottawa Sun
The 67’s losing streak hit an unlucky seven as the Plymouth Whalers skated out of Scotiabank Place with a 3-2 win in front of 6,364 fans Sunday afternoon.
The 67’s found themselves facing an identical scenario as Saturday’s loss to Niagara 24 hours earlier, entering the third period tied 2-2 against a team stacked with NHL-drafted talent, only to see their hard work slip away in the final 20 minutes.
Even without Senators first-rounder Stefan Noesen, who suffered a suspected leg injury Saturday in Belleville, the Whalers boast a lineup with eight drafted players, while the 67’s counter with only two in Tyler Graovac (Wild) and Cody Ceci (Senators).
And just like Saturday against the IceDogs, it was an undisciplined penalty that opened up some space for the opposition’s big guns and ended up costing the 67’s on the scoreboard.
This time it was Brett Gustavsen in the box to start the third after referees tagged him with the only penalty from a scrum that erupted after the final whistle of the second period, and it took only 1:26 for Ryan Hartman to corral a fortunate bounce with the puck bouncing off the back wall to his stick for an easy goal into the open side.
Third periods have not been kind to the 67’s this season, as they dropped to 0-4-0-2 when tied after two periods, and have yet to mount a third period comeback with an 0-11 record when trailing after 40 minutes.
The first period was a different story, however, as the 67’s opened the scoring for the first time in nine games, with Ryan Van Stralen capitalizing on the power play 3:45 in to send a rain of plush toys onto the ice in the 67’s annual Teddy Bear Toss promotion.
Four minutes later it was a back-checking Van Stralen who got his stick on Rickard Rakell on a partial break, sending the big Swede crashing into the boards, where he lay in a heap just long enough for the referee to point to centre ice to indicate a penalty shot.
Rakell made a full recovery in time to snap a low shot past Clint Windsor to tie the game, with the goaltender calling it “a weak call” after the game.
“I told (Van Stralen) there was nothing he could do, he was working hard to get back and unfortunately the call didn’t go our way,” said Windsor. “I would’ve liked to have stopped the penalty shot, but there’s not much you can do.”
Matt Mistele popped home a rebound 90 seconds later to take a 2-1 lead into the first intermission.
Steven Janes got Ottawa back to even ground on a man advantage 1:48 into the second, as the league’s top rated power play remains one of the bright spots for this team.
The power play has gone 9-for-24 (37.5 %) during the seven-game losing streak, while the 67’s have been outscored 24-10 at even strength over the same span.
“We’d love to score some goals 5-on-5, no doubt about it,” said coach and GM Chris Byrne. “It’s tough when guys are working hard and competing hard.”
Also “more than tough,” in Byrne’s words, is the dismal home record, which now stands at a league-worst 2-10-0-2.
“We have to find ways to win games here,” said Byrne. “It’s a tough thing when you’re not winning at home, so for us we have to get at it Tuesday night and we’re playing a team (the Kingston Frontenacs) we have to catch in the standings, so we’ll need a great effort there.”
Meanwhile, 67’s co-captain Sean Monahan might be facing supplementary discipline after he caught Plymouth captain Colin MacDonald with an elbow to the face with 1:44 left in the game.
There was no penalty on the play, but both Gustavsen and Austin Levi were tossed from the game in the scrum that ensued.
MacDonald lay on the ice for a few minutes before he was helped back to the bench.