Three things that I was wearing that day stick out to me: my red Heritage “O” hat, my “Because It’s the Cup” t-shirt from the 2013 playoffs, and a knee brace.
May 6th, 2017. It was a somewhat rainy spring day, which made for an oddly tranquil drive from Sudbury, Ontario, to the nation’s capital. After meeting up with a family friend, my dad and I made our way to Canadian Tire Centre, for an afternoon of hockey between the Ottawa Senators and the New York Rangers.
Though the rain added to an electric atmosphere, it didn’t do many favours for my knee, contained within a bionic-looking brace as I recovered from a torn patellar tendon. Thankfully, there was enough excitement, anxiety, and Aleve to distract me, while I walked into the arena doing my best RoboCop impression.
The Senators and Rangers were set to collide for Game 5 of their second-round playoff series. The nervousness in Ottawa was palpable, after losing back-to-back games in decisive fashion at Madison Square Garden, and seeing their 2-0 series lead dissipate to a tie, with momentum swinging in the wrong direction.
Based on the way the game started, it didn’t look like our lads were going to fare any better in this pivotal contest. Jesper Fast and Nick Holden combined to put the Rangers up 2-0 just 5:13 after the puck drop, and it seemed as if things were going off the rails. Thankfully, Mark Stone managed to pot a fluky goal less than a minute later, and Craig Anderson weathered the Ranger storm, guiding Ottawa into the second period, down by only a goal.
Amidst a sea of red, in my lucky “Because it’s the Cup” shirt, I could feel the game begin to swing in favour of the good guys. Less than four minutes into the second period, Ranger pest Tanner Glass laid a dangerous hit on a vulnerable Dion Phaneuf. Glass, having been a 6-foot 210-pound pain in Ottawa’s ass for the majority of the series, was the reason for Sens’ bench boss Guy Boucher inserting Chris Neil into the lineup. With a penalty upcoming to Glass, Neil made a beeline for the Ranger, and took his pound of flesh, pummelling the agitator into the ice before the linesmen intervened.
Neil negated the imminent Ottawa powerplay, and earned himself a misconduct for his troubles, but one could feel the air within the arena shift. All 20,000+ of us rose to our feet in raucous applause, and thanked our longtime foot soldier for coming to the aid of his teammate.
Lo and behold, it was within the eighth minute of the frame that the Senators pulled into the driver’s seat. Mike Hoffman capitalized on a beautiful setup from Clarke MacArthur and Erik Karlsson to tie the game at 8:17, and just 33 seconds later, Tom Pyatt tipped an innocent-looking Zack Smith shot past Henrik Lundqvist, to give Ottawa their first lead of the evening.
Alas, with the crowd reaching a fever pitch, Ryan McDonagh scored with just over two minutes to go before the intermission, and tie the game at 3-3.
The third period was a blur, defined by brief moments that seem like freeze frames in my memory. Moments like Jesper Fast bearing down on Craig Anderson for a breakaway opportunity, Anderson turning him aside, and my life-long Bruins fan father leaping to his feet, and joining the rest of us in an uproarious “Andy” chant.
At 12:48 of the period, it appeared Anderson had made a Save of the Year candidate on Jimmy Vesey, but further review showed that the puck had in fact crossed the line, and given the Rangers a 4-3 lead. On a marker that served as rubber for an electric crowd, the final seven minutes of regulation time became a frantic, nail-biting scramble to send the game to overtime.
Weirdly, however, I felt a strange sense of calm. Almost as if it was scripted, there was a soothing voice in the back of my mind, telling me that somehow, some way, the Ottawa Senators would come through.
And then, they did.
Derick Brassard batted a puck out of mid-air with 1:26 to go, and it ping-ponged off of various Blueshirts in front of the goal, before finally skittering across the line, and sending us loyal troops of the Sens Army into an absolute frenzy.
Before the overtime period began, my Dad asked me who I thought would score the inevitable game winner. My answer was simple;
When asked for my pick of the Rangers, I replied;
“No. Only Turris”.
Maybe that aforementioned voice was on to something. Maybe it was written in the stars, and I was fortunate enough to have the inside track. More likely, it was just dumb luck.
Following a brief scare with a disallowed Ranger goal, Erik Karlsson made a stunning stretch pass to Alex Burrows, who fed Kyle Turris skating in over the Ranger line. His first shot was blocked by Dan Girardi, but Turris corralled the rebound, and beat Lundqvist far side, sending the Canadian Tire Centre roof flying into some unspecified field in Canada.
And the rest, as they say, is history.
I remember, after the game, looking at my lucky shirt in the mirror. Staring at the Stanley Cup on it, and thinking to myself “This could happen”.
This, needless to say, is my favourite Ottawa Senators game of all time. The one that I think most fondly of, the one where I go back and watch the highlights more often than most, and relive that Kyle Turris goal. I soak in the roar of the crowd, and I’m transported back in time, to one of the best days of my life with my dad.
What game is that for you? What game puts butterflies in your stomach, or a lump in your throat, or maybe even both? What’s the one day/night in Ottawa Senators history that you look back on and think “THAT is why I’m a fan”.
Let us know below.