This run will go down as the third-best season in franchise history. We’ll always be wondering ‘what if’, just like we did many times in the mid-00s, but let’s not forget that there’s a lot to be proud of.
The first period was strikingly similar to Game 1, and ended 0-0 with only 11 shots on net (6-5, Ottawa). Game plan: executed.
When the Penguins got the first goal in period two – Kunitz’s first since February – it was tense. We had all heard the stat that 75% of teams who score the first goal win Game 7. But as always, the Senators did everything they good to buck the trend, as Erik Karlsson and Mark Stone flew down the ice and Stone potted a perfect wrist shot behind Matt Murray just 20 seconds later.
The Penguins would strike again, on their first and only powerplay of the night on a Dion Phaneuf interference penalty. Phil Kessel, the benefactor of the call, could’ve dove, but really, I don’t think it matters much. You shouldn’t put yourself in a position to take a call because you know that the refs were looking to give the Penguins something anyways after the Senators had the first two chances with the extra skater; they went 0/2 on the night. Justin Schultz made quick work of Craig Anderson with a wrist shot just under the right post with lots of traffic in front, and the Penguins took a 2-1 lead in the third period.
As he’s done all season, Erik Karlsson put the Senators on his back once again, playing nearly much of the next 3 minutes of game time until Ryan Dzingel scored the biggest goal of his career. I thought Karlsson would get it, as Murray was screened and The Captain usually doesn’t miss from his patented right point location if he has time and space to load up a slap shot. He beat Murray, but was stopped by the post. Thankfully, Dzingel was right there to hammer the puck into the empty net to set up overtime.
The whistles completely went away in overtime, and there were multiple instances of obvious penalties on both sides. Should Jean-Gabriel Pageau have gotten a penalty shot? If this was the regular season, I’d bet good money on it. But alas, it isn’t, and the officiating standard in the NHL has been ineffective and ridiculous for quite some time. Instead, I’ll look at the Sens only being able to manage 2 shots on goal and 10 shot attempts in the first overtime period as evidence that they seemed to be playing to not lose than trying to win. There was offensive zone pressure – absolutely – but the instances were too few and far between.
Then, we all saw what happened a few minutes into second overtime, and I don’t think there’s any need for us to relive that.
Instead, I’ll use this closing space to say thank you. Thank you to Bryan Murray, Nicholle Anderson, Jonathan Pitre, Clarke MacArthur, and the many other folks in the Senators community for all they went through this year. Thanks to Pierre Dorion, for doing His Best to improve the team’s depth in order to give the team a fighting chance to do Anything these playoffs. Thanks to Guy Boucher, who managed to give this team structure that we hadn’t seen for the last decade. Thanks to the fans (and you!) for supporting this team and this community regardless of what happened — if we don’t stick together, no one will fight for us. Thanks to the players, for leaving it all on the ice and the magic you created with this inconceivable run. And thanks to Erik Karlsson, for being the engine behind it all.