On a Saturday afternoon at the Canadian Tire Centre, Sens fans filled the arena to witness game two of the Ottawa Senators vs New York Rangers. And what a game it was.
It was one of those games you could make a movie of. The jaw-dropping plays, the back and forth chances, the missed opportunities, and of course, the epic comeback to top it off. In what will probably go down as one of the craziest playoff games in Senators history, the good guys came out on top 6-5 in double overtime, to take a commanding 2-0 series lead.
For an afternoon game, the pace started off higher than expected. Both teams would exchange chances early, although the Rangers would break that up by taking three consecutive penalties in the first 10 minutes. The Sens’ power play units had trouble mustering anything, despite being handed ample opportunity to go up early.
Instead of scoring on the power play, it was the opposite that occurred, as the Rangers that opened the scoring shorthanded. A puck bounce over Mark Stone’s stick lead to a 2-on-1 for the Rangers. Jesper Fast slid the puck past Dion Phaneuf right to Michael Grabner, who put the Rangers up 1-0.
The play would settle down for a bit after the penalties, until Ottawa scored to tie it back up. Dan Girardi made the questionable move to pass the puck to nobody, which was then picked up by Jean-Gabriel Pageau. Pageau rushed down the side, and shot the puck past Henrik Lundqvist from a sharp angle. Today’s game was questionable for Lundqvist, which is something that I doubt we’ll see often for the remainder of the series. Either way, period one concluded 1-1, with shots on goal a mere 9-6 for the Rangers.
The second period can essentially be broken down into two parts: the Anderson highlight reel, and then the opposite. Period two has been consistently poor for the Senators so far in the playoffs, and this one was no different. The Rangers peppered the Sens in shots throughout, with Craig Anderson making some spectacular saves in the process. Here’s the highlight of the bunch:
JT Miller robbed by Anderson, very upset about it pic.twitter.com/zMxnpp59XE— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) April 29, 2017
The ten minute mark is when the switch flipped, however, as the Rangers’ dominance started to pay off. Chris Kreider was up first, who turned and fired a puck high that beat Anderson over his shoulder. Next would be Derek Stepan, who on an undefended shorthanded rush somehow found a breakaway to put the Rangers up 3-1. With New York scoring twice shorthanded and up by two, the game was beginning to look out of grasp already.
The Sens would answer back with one, though, as Mike Hoffman zoomed end-to-end past three Rangers players to get a chance in close. Lundqvist would make the stop, although the rebound was right there for a pinching Marc Methot (!!!) who scored to cut New York’s lead in half. It was Methot’s first goal of the season, with his last being on March 19th of last season.
New York would get back their two goal lead soon after, as Brady Skjei feathered a puck from the point towards the net, which somehow beat Anderson clean. It could’ve been because of Marc Methot tying up the Rangers player in front and screening Andy, although it was a soft goal nevertheless. The Rangers sustained their lead to the end of the period, although Sens fans still had hope of a potential comeback.
Period three began at four-on-four because of a late flurry of high-sticks in the second frame, and Ottawa would find the back of the net not long before it would expire. Kyle Turris was taken out of the faceoff circle, forcing Mark Stone to take the draw. Stone would win it back to Phaneuf, who sent a shot wide that deflected back out front. It led right to the stick of Mark Stone, who would shoot the puck past a stunned Lundqvist. All of a sudden, Ottawa was down by only one with over 18 minutes remaining.
The back and forth continued, though, as Brady Skjei (pronounced Shea) would score his second of the game off a fantastic individual effort. Stone and Turris first rushed down on a 2-on-1, which was Skjei interrupted with his stick. The Rangers rushed back with the quick counterattack, and Skjei ended up scoring with a point blank shot on Anderson. It was a weak goal for Andy, although not enough credit can be given to Skjei for the amount of work he did on that play.
More chances would be exchanged at both ends, with the Rangers desperately trying to protect their lead. Fans started to leave to beat the traffic with five minutes left, and man did they mess up big time.
With just over three minutes remaining on the clock, the Senators put some extra force on the gas pedal, gaining some sustained offensive zone pressure. Ottawa won a puck battle along the boards which went to Zack Smith at the point, who took a shot hoping to get a deflection. He got it, as Jean-Gabriel Pageau got his second goal of the game to bring the Sens back within one.
Now desperate to complete the comeback, Anderson left the crease for the extra attacker. Erik Karlsson would work the point, and send a pass to Kyle Turris who took a shot. The puck found a stick in front which soared past the short side “King” Henrik, a stick that belonged to none other than Jean-Gabriel Pageau. The chants roared throughout the CTC for the Pageau hat trick, as it was now a tie game. Five to five, headed to overtime.
The first OT was a hard fought duel between both teams, although it would end still locked in a tie. Mark Stone and Kyle Turris both had chances to end it, as well as one for Rick Nash on the other side. The stress levels felt the highest they’ve been all playoffs. Mike Hoffman took a high stick to the face late that went uncalled, returning patched up to begin the double OT.
The second overtime wouldn’t last as long as the first, as none other than Jean-Gabriel Pageau would send fans home to complete the epic comeback. With Derek Stepan caught high, Alex Burrows would chip the puck up to Pageau, who was set free on a 2-on-1. With Tommy Wingels there as a passing option, Pageau opted to shoot, firing a laser past Lundqvist in heroic fashion for the game winning goal.
PAGEAU, PAGEAU, PAGEAU, PAGEAU! pic.twitter.com/ZEwRMhwWxe— Ottawa Senators (@Senators) April 29, 2017
Sens Hero: Jean-Gabriel Pageau
Four goals. Four freaking goals! Pageau, you’re a hero.
Honourable Mention: Jean-Gabriel Pageau
Did I mentioned that he scored four goals? Including the game-tying goal? Including the game-winning goal? His performance tonight was nothing short of legendary. Imagine how many he would’ve had if we played the Habs!
Honourable Mention: Tommy Wingels
This one’s more of a personal choice, although I thought Wingels had a fantastic game, having many good looks at the net and doing a great job of setting things up in the offensive zone.
Sens Zero: The Defence
There were WAY too many defensive zone breakdowns this game, especially from Phaneuf and Ceci. Claesson and Harpur had their fair share too, mostly coming in the second period. Shots ended 48-34 Rangers, with the opposition getting the bulk of high-danger chances as shown in the heat map below.
Sens Killer: Brady Skjei
On a Rangers blue line filled with slow and aging veterans, Skjei provided them with a speedier and more skilled player who was nothing short of outstanding. He was breaking up odd man rushes left and right, and added his two goals in the process.
???: Craig Anderson
He had his moments for sure, although a couple of the goals he let in were pretty weak. On a night where Henrik Lundqvist was also not fully on his game, the Sens’ netminder was also looking a bit shaky. Also, somebody fasten him to the net!
Clarke MacArthur left the game late in the first period, and did not return. It’s reportedly because of something that has nothing to do with his head, and it’s not obvious which play it was that made him exit. Let’s hope Clarke’s alright for game three.
The Sens look to further extend their lead at Madison Square Garden, taking place on Tuesday at 7:00 PM.
Also in the news:
The draft lottery just took place, with the New Jersey Devils picking first, the Philadelphia Flyers picking second and the Dallas Stars picking third. The Avalanche fell back to fourth. With the changed rules of the draft order this year, Ottawa will pick either 19th, 20th, or 31st.