via Last Word on Hockey, by Austin Urbach
It was noted yesterday that the Ottawa Senators needed a special performance tonight to force a Stanley Cup birth deciding game seven. Tonight was just that–special. After going down by one early to the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Cinderella fighters from Canada’s capital fought hard to stave off elimination and win a close 2-1 game.
Ottawa Senators Win Eastern Conference Final Game 6
Strong Goaltending Steals the Show
Sunday’s 7-0 blowout clearly made Craig Anderson angry. Although the Senators goalie was not in net the entire game, he did let in three early goals which resulted in his quick departure in Sunday’s Game 5 annihilation. Anderson was a lot better today. As a matter of fact, Anderson was near perfect.
The Sens netminder made 45 saves throughout the entirety of the game, including over twenty in a hectic and overpowering second period by the Penguins. All game Anderson was bombarded by a talented Pittsburgh offense who seemed to be easily getting into the offensive zone. Their net presence was pest-like but Anderson barely wavered. He remained strong and made critical point blank saves on the likes of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin from the first period until the final seconds.
The only goal Anderson let in was a beautiful display of Malkin’s strength and skill. Aside from the one blemish, the confident and heroic performance of Anderson can be attributed as the reason for the Senators sticking around in this game. His saves elicited energy and momentum that ultimately won Ottawa the game.
Anderson played well, but so did Matt Murray. The Penguins goalie made 28/30 saves and continued to look sharp since his insertion into the lineup in game four. Murray played well, but Anderson was better. If the Senators expect to win this series, they will need to hope for another stellar performance out of their goalie in game seven.
Star Players Shine
The goalies were not the only players who had strong performances in this game. Evgani Malkin continued to shine this postseason. He dominated the face-off circle, played tough and physical, and showed brilliance with his goal.
On the other side, Ottawa saw their team’s stars step up when it mattered most. To no surprise Erik Karlsson played a phenomenal game. His smooth skating was seen early and often as he calmly was able to clear the puck out of his own zone and skate head-up to create offense. He had quality looks early, but it was on the power play where he and his stud teammates shined.
Karlsson got back to form this game as did sharpshooter Bobby Ryan. He has been huge for the Senators all playoffs and it continued tonight. After an interference and highstick call, the Senators were quickly on a 5-3 power play. Karlsson was seen slowly and patiently controlling it as he does before dropping a gorgeous drop pass to Kyle Turris who slid it over to Ryan who beat Matt Murray short side with a one time clapper to tie the game. This is exactly what the Senators needed. After a terrible game from all two nights ago, quality players returned to their ways and lead this team to victory. In order to beat a championship caliber team, top players performing their best is what is needed. The Senators got that tonight.
By now everybody knows the Ottawa Senators don’t belong. They are in unfamiliar territory with a lack of experience. But as Bobby Ryan so eloquently put, why not them? The Senators have been playing like the underdogs all postseason and that continued today. It takes a lot of toughness to play in a series like this against a team like the Penguins, but the Senators found it tonight.
Erik Karlsson and Derrick Brassard continue to play through visibly aching injuries. They both continue to fight hard and do everything they can to help their team win. Craig Anderson bounced back from a terrible performance to put together a legendary night. The power play unit did not quit and stopped a skid of 29 straight without a goal. The team as a whole did not fold when everyone thought they would. Even while being dominated the defense tried to recover and never let the Penguins attack overwhelm them. Even when trailing first, there was no quit. Instead the Senators looked forward, played hard and fast, and capitalized on a power play and turnover to win.
They played with energy, grit, and desire. They took the opportunities given to them and made it count. Resilience. That is what was seen tonight. That is what defined the game for the Senators. With an energized crowd, Ottawa fought and fought. They fought to belong and they fought to keep the Cinderella run alive. Now, a game seven goes to Pittsburgh on Thursday night where both teams will battle for a chance to reach the Stanley Cup Finals.