On nights like tonight, we're reminded of why we watch hockey. We're reminded of why we, as fans, attach such a preposterous amount of our emotional well-being to the outcome of a game over which we have exactly zero control. How you answer the question of why will vary from person to person; I can't pretend to know why you, the reader, feel the way you do. But I'd suggest that experiences like these sharpen our understanding of what it means to be a fan. For me, fandom is both a reward for dedication in times of duress, as well as the sheer joy of watching world-class athletic prowess. Tonight, I was fortunate enough to witness plenty of both -- things could not have been more bleak, and the Sens could not have played much more beautiful hockey for the last 35 minutes of that game.
The particulars of this game are both critically important and yet trivial at the same time. If the team drags itself into the play-offs, we'll be talking about this game for years and the details will only grow more extravagant with each re-telling. It wouldn't do the game justice to simply state the events that took place, so just know that Sidney Crosby scored ten seconds in and that it was 3-0 before the first period was over. You should also know that the scoreline might have even flattered the Senators as Andrew Hammond was forced into several unbelievable saves to keep the game within reach.
The comeback didn't begin in earnest until Jean-Gabriel Pageau struck while the Sens were shorthanded, banking a pass intended for Erik Condra off a Penguins player's skate and in with 5:19 left in the second period. Before the second period was out, Ottawa was forced to kill off a rather soft tripping call on Bobby Ryan; without that kill, there's no comeback to speak of. Re-grouping down 3-1 still felt like a long shot, but it felt possible.
The third period was essentially played entirely in the Pittsburgh end of the rink. The Turris-MacArthur-Stone line, in particular, were dominant and got a goal early in the frame to narrow the gap to 3-2. It would be almost eighteen agonizing minutes of sustained pressure before Mike Hoffman tied the game at 3 with a wrist shot through a crowd. At the time, Hammond was on the bench and the season was on the line. The Sens were less than one-hundred and twenty seconds away from their season being over. A Too Many Men on the Ice penalty against the Penguins with under a minute to play almost gave Ottawa a win in regulation, but no one could get their stick on the bouncing puck outside Marc-Andre Fleury's crease.
The Sens began overtime on the powerplay, but couldn't find a way past Fleury. Fortunately, what happened next saved the season:
At the end, all I could do was laugh really. Our former contributor, and friend of the blog, Roger the Shrubber said it to me best:
@NKB121 Well for one, it should be titled "Happy Feat 2: Sens Come Back From 3-0 Against Pens Again"— Robble the Shrubber (@rtshrubber) April 8, 2015
I'm still laughing.
Sens Hero: Mark Stone
Stone, like many of the other Senators, struggled badly in the first period; a sequence in which he mishandled a puck without any pressure looked as close to nerves as I've seen in an NHL game. That he turned around and flat out dominated the last half of the game says so much about the player that he is, even today at age 22.
Honourable Mention: Erik Karlsson
Erik Karlsson looked like a shadow of himself in the first period; he skated gingerly at times, he did not push the play forward nearly as often as we expect from him and he happened to be on the ice for all three goals against. By the end of the game, he was the hero the Sens have always needed him to be to win.
Sens Killer: The Hydra of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin
Of late it seems fashionable to lament the decline of Sidney Crosby, and sometimes Evgeni Malkin. Any person doing so should re-watch the tape of tonight's game. Ottawa escaped with the two points, but it took their all to overcome the efforts of the Penguins' two leading scorers.