Sens Rewind: Do Not Go Gentle...
The last gasp of Ottawa’s greatest team.
Oh, the plight of being a youngster.
You have no freedom, your precious days of youth are spent mainly in school, and you never, under any circumstances, get to stay up late. This was my sad state of affairs as the summer heat began to return to Sudbury, Ontario, in June of 2007. At the tender age of eight years, going on nine, it was an especially bitter pill to swallow, due to my favourite hockey team being in the Stanley Cup Final.
After watching only the first periods of Games 1 and 2 in Anaheim, I was thrilled to find out that rather than falling on a school night, Game 3 in Ottawa would take place on a Saturday, 13 years ago today. My parents decided to take unprecedented action, in allowing me to stay up for the duration of this pivotal contest between my Ottawa Senators, and the Anaheim Ducks.
The game began with a huge save by the late Ray Emery on Dustin Penner just over two minutes in, bringing the Scotiabank Place crowd to their feet, and inspiring hope in a fragile fanbase. But it would be the Ducks hitting the scoreboard first, on a powerplay marker from Andy MacDonald at 5:39.
It took nearly 11 minutes, but the Senators finally tied the game when Chris Neil tipped a Chris Kelly centring pass behind J.S. Giguere, after Andrej Meszaros made a great play to hold the Anaheim line. With the momentum swinging back in favour of the boys in red, the energy began to grow, and became tangible through the television screen that I was glued to.
The second period, however, came bearing more cause for anxiety and dejection. 5:20mins in, it was Corey Perry charging the goalmouth, and jamming the puck past Emery to restore his team’s lead.
Not to be outdone, and not wanting to let the game, the series, and the Stanley Cup slip away, Ottawa returned fire just 27 seconds later. Mike Fisher won an offensive zone draw to Anton Volchenkov, who uncorked a booming shot that hit the back of the net in the blink of an eye, once again igniting the sold-out crowd, and the countless fans watching on TV.
Though it appeared to be a clean goal at first glance, I was thrilled to find out that my hero wearing #12 had in fact tipped the point shot, for his fifth of the playoffs, and second in three games.
As was the common theme in this series, though, the bliss was short-lived. Ryan Getzlaf put the Ducks up by one yet again in less than two minutes, while Ottawa and her fans collectively groaned, “Stop the ride, I want to get off”!
We know how the series turned out. We know that the Anaheim was largely the better team, and rarely gave up the upper hand, but this night was different. For the first, and honestly, only time in the series, the Ottawa Senators had an answer for the Ducks at every turn. Almost as if it were preordained, this night belonged to them, and they would prove it at all costs.
At the 16:14 mark of the period, with the Sens on the powerplay, Daniel Alfredsson deflected a Wade Redden slap pass into the goal with his skate. Referee Dan O’Halloran immediately waved it off, and gestured that Alfie had kicked the puck in, while sending the play to video review in Toronto.
The general that he was, Alfredsson simply shook his head, and went to celebrate with his teammates at the Ottawa bench. The review felt agonizingly long, but with Ottawa’s season hanging in the balance, the captain stood stoic, knowing the outcome about to be handed down. When O’Halloran emphatically signalled “GOAL”, the arena filled with an earth-shattering roar, as Mike Comrie grabbed Alfie to be mobbed by his fellow teammates, with the game tied at 3-3.
Alfredsson’s goal was a defining moment for that playoff, and the rest of the series. Even with his team on the brink, and the situation looking bleak, he came through. And from there, the floodgates opened.
Dean McAmmond banked the eventual game-winner off of Chris Pronger with under a minute and a half to go in the second, not long before Pronger ended his series with an elbow to the head. Anton Volchenkov scored a goal of his own in the third to make it 5-3, and the Ottawa Senators had their first, and only, win of the 2007 Stanley Cup Final.
It is here that I’m reminded of a poem by Dylan Thomas, from which this piece gets its title; “Do not go gentle into that good night”.
We know how this series turned out, and if we’re being honest. we probably knew how it would go early on. Maybe the Ottawa Senators did too, but one thing is for certain, they did not go gentle, into that good night. They raged against the Anaheim Ducks, the overwhelming force bearing down on them; the dying of the light.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
While it’s tempting to look back on this series as a dominant five-game performance by the Anaheim Ducks, it is important to remember that of the four games the Ottawa Senators lost, three were by one goal. A 6-2 drubbing in the deciding game skews our memory of things a bit, but make no mistake, the Ottawa Senators did not go gentle.
The Ducks were bigger, stronger, and simply beat the Sens up for five games. With the odds against them, Ottawa scratched and clawed to stay competitive in a daunting series. Their Game 3 victory was a sort of last stand, the last gasp of a team still giving everything they had to bring the Stanley Cup home.
The light may have died, but the Ottawa Senators did not go gentle. We should remember the 2007 team fondly for that.