It’s only the second series win of the past decade, and man does it feel sweet. I was tense for 90% of this game, but now that it’s over, I’m so happy. What a spectacular hockey game.
The story before the game was the healthy scratching of Chris Wideman in favour of Fredrik Claesson. Wideman had been a constant all year. But then again, Chris Kelly played in all 82 games and played his first playoff game in Game 5 thanks to Tom Pyatt’s injury, and Kelly was again scratched (this time in favour of Tommy Wingels) for Game 6.
The story of the first period was special teams. The Bruins managed to take three puck-over-glass delay of game penalties, giving Ottawa three great chances to take the lead. (Mercifully, none of the penalties overlapped, because Ottawa’s 5-on-3 has been atrocious all year.) The Sens’ powerplays went from bad to worse though, with the first one looking alright, the second one not looking great except for Erik Karlsson hitting the post, and the third one seeing the Senators failing to get puck possession in the offensive zone. It was brutal.
I was worried that failing to do anything on the powerplay would give Boston momentum, but I was wrong. As the third penalty expired, Mark Stone took a dumb penalty by diving to take the puck, missing, and tripping Sean Kuraly. On the powerplay, the Bruins kept the puck in the zone for a full minute before Drew Stafford nailed a chance into the far top corner. It gave the Bruins a 1-0 lead in a period in which they were outshot 12-6. As the period wound down, Ben Harpur and Sean Kuraly got into a shoving match, sending both to the box. Boston controlled most of the 4-on-4, but Mark Stone got a breakaway chance near the end which Tuukka Rask shut down.
It turned out allowing that goal was a blessing in disguise. It used up all of the Bs’ momentum, giving Ottawa the chance to plow into the lead to start the second. First Bobby Ryan got a microtip on a Derick Brassard point shot to beat Rask, and then Kyle Turris used a defenceman as a screen to rip a beauty home off the left post. I have no stats to back this up, but I think Turris is the best player on the team at using opposing defencemen as screens. Most players seem to try to avoid players for fear of a block.
The Sens then just seemed to shut down the Bruins for the rest of the period. They would send in two forecheckers and clog up the neutral zone, and they couldn’t get anything going. That would be frustrating to watch if I were unlucky enough to be a Bruins fan.
Big Mo (NHL 14, 2014) would switch back to Boston to start the third. After an icing call, Ottawa forced a complete change they didn’t really have time for. The Bruins capitalized, with Brad Marchand getting an open shot to the net, and Patrice Bergeron potting the rebound after a bit of a fortunate bounce for him. Ottawa could continue to be hemmed in their own zone and ice the puck, but Boston couldn’t take advantage. It probably wasn’t until eight minutes into the period that Ottawa first gained some pressure, at which point I also realized that I’d been holding my breath for about that long. It was stressful, to say the least.
Late in the third, Boston would get a golden opportunity when Mike Hoffman slashed (and broke) a stick. Some good play by Alexandre Burrows and Zack Smith in particular kept Ottawa in it, and the teams went to overtime after a period in which Ottawa was thoroughly outplayed. Boston looked like a team with its playoff lives in the balance, and Ottawa looked like a team that was just happy to be there. I was definitely hoping things would look different in OT.
OT did look different, as luck would have it. The final shot count was 6-0 for Ottawa. Erik Karlsson raced up the ice a few minutes in, forcing David Pastrnak into a holding penalty to avoid a 2-on-1 down low, giving Ottawa a powerplay. The PP hadn’t been firing all game, but it scored when it mattered. Rask got a little too far out of position to cover a cross-crease pass chance for Bobby Ryan, so Ryan hit Clarke MacArthur with the puck in the slot. With the goalie way out of position, MacArthur snapped home the series-clinching goal. What a sweet feeling for all.
Sens Hero: Craig Anderson
He saved 28 of 30 shots, and held the Sens in a game they had no business winning in the third period. Without him, Game 7 happens.
Sens Hero: Clarke MacArthur
Honourable Mention: This Eugene Melnyk reaction
Management reactions pic.twitter.com/C22ISjX1rN— The 6th Sens (@6thSens) April 23, 2017