If anyone thought it would take long for the 417/A40 series to heat up, they were wrong. Very, very wrong. This game started with intensity, it escalated significantly after one particular event, then simmered a bit directly after--until the Sens woke up in the third period and brought the pesk.
Fittingly, Erik Karlsson scored the first goal of Ottawa's 2013 post-season when he jumped up in the rush and tipped a Kyle Turris pass between the legs of Carey Price. Ottawa had a lead late in the first period despite being outplayed in the first 20 minutes, and must have considered themselves lucky to have it.
The drama ratcheted up a notch in the second period, though.
Things took off when P.K. Subban threw a nice neutral-zone check on Chris Neil, winding the Sens' enforcer and having an obvious effect on Subban's intensity in the game. About 10 minutes later, after significant sustained pressure for Montreal, Subban passed the puck to Rene Bourque who sneaked a tricky back-hander up and over the shoulder of Craig Anderson. Less than 20 seconds later, things went nuts.
With Lars Eller looking back to receive a suicide pass from Raphael Diaz, Eric Gryba stepped up at the offensive blue line and made a huge contact with Eller. To refresh your memory, here it is in .GIF form:
I'll save you the experience of watching blood literally spewing out of Eller's face, but you can probably guess the reaction even if you weren't watching the game.
At this juncture, let me step aside and comment on the hit: I don't think it was an infraction on Gryba's part, and that opinion is supported by impartial fans from Toronto and Edmonton, to name a few. The result was obviously not something anyone wants to see, but Gryba was quite obviously conscious of where his body was relative to Eller's: His shoulder hit Eller's chest, his elbow was tucked in, and his feet were firmly planted on the ice. This was an unfortunate incident where a suicide pass set up an opposing player in a vulnerable position, and he paid for it--similar, in many ways, to Jared Cowen's recent hit on Jeff Skinner. I would be very surprised to see any supplementary discipline, and I don't even think the play was worth a minor penalty--let alone the five-minute major and game misconduct that was assessed.
However, I'm not remotely surprised that the refs made the call that they did. The play happened at a high speed, and the end result obviously influenced the call that was made--which is evident by the fact that Gryba was initially in the penalty box, and it wasn't until after the ice became bloodied (likely a result of Eller's face hitting the ice rather than the hit itself, in my opinion) that they sent him to the dressing room for the night. For the record, initial reports said that Eller suffered a broken nose, a suspected concussion, and had lost consciousness, but was conscious when in hospital.
Naturally, that hit changed the tempo of the game--although it was the five-minute penalty that did more. The Habs capitalized early when Brendan Gallagher scored just 40 seconds into the powerplay and Montreal still had plenty of powerplay time to work with--especially when Jean-Gabriel Pageau was handed a tripping penalty and the Canadiens had nealy 80 seconds of 5-on-3 time. Thanks to some penalty killing heroics from several notable players, though, the damage was limited and Ottawa walked out of the second period down just 2-1 despite being out-shot by an absurd 27-7 margin in that period alone.
The the third period came along, and it was just about all Senators. Jakob Silfverberg tied the game with a five-hole slapshot that should never go in, Marc Methot fired a top-corner slapper through a screen that Price probably should have stopped, and Guillaume Latendresse drove the net and had a puck bounce off him and past Price. This is the #PeskySens reputation coming to form: A game that the Senators are losing and really have no reason to be in, and they manage to string a few things together through hard work and good luck, and it works out. I prefer to think it was karma for the vastly premature Olé chants echoing through the Bell Centre to start the third, but whatever it was, the Sens managed to get a win they probably shouldn't have taken.
As a result, Ottawa's given themselves home-ice advantage. They're back at it tomorrow, and the Habs seem rattled; Price isn't playing well, and Anderson's psyched out Montreal's shooters, so the back-to-back nights is probably working in Ottawa's favour. The Sens have given themselves a chance to grab a 2-0 series lead and bring it back to friendly confines, which is an incredible opportunity for the lower-ranked and very young team.
Sens Hero: Craig Anderson
Anderson was THE hero for the Senators; it's almost unfair to give anyone else that same commendation, considering the fact that Anderson was far and away the biggest reason why the Senators managed to come out of Game One with a win. He stopped 48 of 50 shots on net, wasn't rattled, and scared the daylights out of every Sens fan when he looked injured after taking a stinger of a shot in the second. Everyone wondered if Andy could maintain his stats heading into the post-season, and for one game, at least, he has.
Sens Hero: Daniel Alfredsson
Alfie was a firecracker all night, and he was the biggest influencer in the game-winning goal: He pressured Montreal's defenders into giving the puck away several times, nabbed it once it became loose, set up Methot with a perfect pass in the slot, and was generally awesome.
Sens Hero: Marc Methot
Yes, Methot scored the game-winning goal and also had an assist, but he deserves this Hero nod for his solid defence as much as anything else. He was absolutely clutch on the extended Habs powerplay, was the ultimate complement to Karlsson when they played together, was sufficiently physical without being a liability, and looked like a leader out there. He might only have four playoff games under his belt, but it looks like he knows what it takes in the post-season.
Sens Hero: Erik Condra
Speaking of the penalty kill, no forward was more vital to Ottawa's short-handed success than Condra. He had three clutch shot-blocks when down a man (finished with five overall), and was a big reason why Ottawa got out of the 5-on-3 unscathed (he was the lone forward Paul MacLean selected for the job). He's not flashy and can't score to save his life, but he's a smart player and a great penalty killer.
Habs Zero: Carey Price
Two goals were highly suspect, and I'm not sure any of the four really qualify as unstoppable shots. Regardless, search "Budaj" on Twitter right now and draw conclusions based on the panic of Habs fans: They wanted more from Price, he failed to deliver, and a save percentage of 87.1 simply isn't acceptable.
Habs Zero: Raphael Diaz
Set aside, for a moment, the horrible suicide pass that Diaz sent to Eller that resulted in a season (or career?) -threatening injury for the latter: Diaz was bad everywhere else, too. Of particular note was Diaz' lazy third-period clearing attempt that was kept in by Karlsson, picked up by Alfredsson, sent to Methot and resulted in the game-winning goal. Diaz finished with a Corsi of -9, fourth-worst on his team.
- Erik Karlsson: Despite what I say below, he was great. Scored the first goal of the game on a chance he created, had an assist as well, led the team in shots on net. His issues with mobility is still causing problems in terms of handling opponents in the defensive zone, though.
- Jakob Silfverberg: Had a goal and an assist and tied Kyle Turris for the Sens' lead in shots among forwards, and was among the top offensive players for Ottawa.
- Mika Zibanejad: Looked great in his first playoff game, had two assists and was buzzing through the neutral and offensive zones all night long. Used his size effectively.
- Kyle Turris: Just the one assist, but he's on to something. I'm expecting that he'll take a good step forward next game.
EK versus PK:
This is not going to be a popular opinion, but I've got to put it out there: I thought that on the whole, with all aspects of the game taken into consideration, P.K. outplayed EK65 in Game One. You can't argue with results, and Karlsson had two points for a reason, and he definitely created much more offensively than Subban (especially considering Subban's 8:36 PP TOI), but Karlsson was highly questionable in the defensive zone. I'll attribute that to the fact that it's his fourth game back from a severe tendon injury, and his D-zone unreliability was mitigated by ample forward support, but it is what it is.