The 2017 Playoff Run will undoubtably go down in history as the biggest emotional roller coaster to date for Senators fans, at least for me. From Jean-Gabriel Pageau scoring four goals en route to a 6-5 win against the Rangers, to Viktor Stalberg...almost knocking down a cross-ice pass in double overtime, yeah, the only thing more unbelievable than the fact that this run was actually happening, was the moment it all came crashing down.
With so many “boring” games to choose from, how do you pick one that defines that memorable run? Simply put, you go to the game that had absolutely everything; stories of redemption and overcoming adversity, crazy goaltending gaffes at both ends, Erik Karlsson continuously finding a new gear long after the bike shop had sold out. And to top it all off, pure, raw emotion bleeding from the players and the crowd. Without further ado, let’s rewind to Round One, Game Two.
The date is April 15, 2017. The Ottawa Senators were still smarting after Brad Marchand scored the winning goal with 2:33 left in regulation en route to a 2-1 win in Game One of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal between the Senators and the Boston Bruins.
This particular series may have meant a bit more to former Toronto Maple Leafs Clarke MacArthur and Dion Phaneuf. I’m sure we’ll never let Leaf fans ever forget their beloved blue team blowing a Game Seven 4-1 lead against the Bruins back in the 2013 playoffs. Now playing for the revered red team, everyone was indirectly cheering for them to avenge their humiliating loss.
It’s said that a team is in trouble once they lose a playoff game at home, so if Ottawa were to go down 2-0 here, well, you get the idea.
Craig Anderson and Tuukka Rask were both up to the task in the first period, stopping 10 and 9 shots respectively and keeping the game scoreless. The Bruins would go on the attack in the second period, however. After his team subjected Anderson to a shooting gallery through the first half of the period, Drew Stafford would take advantage of a surplus of open space in the slot and open the scoring for Boston. Shortly afterward, however, Ryan Dzingel would draw a tripping penalty and the Senators would go to work on the power play. Enter Clarke MacArthur.
The fact that MacArthur was even playing hockey at this time was and still is astounding. After signing a 5-year extension before the start of the 2013-14 season, MacArthur suffered a string of concussions that can be described as, among other things, just unfair. In 2015 he collided with then-teammate Robin Lehner, injuring both of them. Another hit to the head sidelined him for the entire 2015-16 season just four games in. The season after that, during training camp, he missed nearly the entire 2016-17 campaign with his third concussion in just over two years, courtesy of friendly fire from new acquisition Patrick Sieloff.
On January 20th, GM Pierre Dorion announced that MacArthur wouldn’t play in the 2017 season. MacArthur however, battled back and made an unexpected and emotional return to the NHL on April 4th, against the Detroit Red Wings. He wasn’t able to score a hat-trick in that game a la Bobby Ryan, but he would have other opportunities to make his presence on the team known. For example...
This sweet sequence of swift switching of puck possession between Derick Brassard, Bobby Ryan and Clarke MacArthur tied up the game and sent the home crowd into a frenzy. I yearn for the day the CTC becomes this electric once again. The fans knew what MacArthur had gone through to get to this point, and they were showing their appreciation for him in this moment.
I can only assume that what happened next, on another Senators’ power play, was a result of Anderson getting a migraine from all of the noise, and doing everything in his power to stop the pain; in response to pressure from a penalty killer, he gave away the puck, which Tim Schaller promptly deposited into the open cage to give Boston the lead once again. A few minutes after that, Patrice Bergeron tipped a David Pastrnak shot past Anderson to double the lead.
Just like that, all the momentum that had been built from the MacArthur goal was gone without a trace. They needed to take the third period by storm in order to tie the series. And just like throughout the season, as well as the big games still to come, the Senators rose to the occasion.
5:28 into the third period, a point shot from none other than Chris Wideman(!!!) found its way through traffic and beat Rask under the glove. Then at the 7:48 mark, the captain would go off (did someone say “vintage”?):
It’s still incredible that he was this dominant on a broken foot, and he would go on to provide an even better pass in the following game. For now though, the score had been tied 3-3 and the crowd was back in full force. Overtime was needed to break the tie.
Early on in the extra frame, Ottawa would go on the power play, and while they were unable to score, they did keep the Bruins hemmed in their end for a while. Dion Phaneuf made a great play keep the puck in the zone, and he was eventually set up for a point shot that Rask easily gloved. You’d think that at this point, Rask would try to replicate the goaltending of Tim Thomas in order to bring Lord Stanley back to Boston, but instead, he decided to channel Patrick Roy.
No, Rask didn’t throw the puck into his own net, but he might as well have, as right after he flipped the puck towards the boards, Mark Stone promptly picked it up and fed it back to Phaneuf, who no doubt was picturing Scott Hartnell’s face in its place. And with the game on his stick, he made no mistake:
The captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs during most of the previous season had just won the game for the Ottawa Senators, and tied the series at one apiece. How do you even make something like that up? He and MacArthur both scored for Ottawa, contributing for a massive 4-3 victory, with the shot count even at 29-29. Phaneuf and MacArthur didn’t know it then, but trading blue for red was the key to avenging their (still hilarious) defeat to the Bruins four years ago. MacArthur would even go on to score the series-clinching goal himself in Game Six, sending the Senators to the second round.
This game is one that may get overlooked in favour of Pageau’s four-goal night among others, but as I said before, this game had absolutely everything, and like every single victory in the 2017 playoff run, it will never be forgotten.