Trevor Daley #6 of the Pittsburgh Penguins battles for a loose puck with Erik Karlsson #65, Zack Smith #15 and Derick Brassard #19 of the Ottawa Senators in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Final. Daley's goal on the play was waved off. (Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images)
OTTAWA - There will be a tomorrow for the Ottawa Senators.
The Senators have forced a dramatic Game 7 to decide which team will represent the Eastern Conference in the Stanley Cup final after they scored a clutch 2-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday night, sending the crowd of 18,111 — just short of a sellout — at Canadian Tire Centre into hysterics.
Yes, the East final will go the distance.
With the Senators trying to get to the Stanley Cup final for the first time since 2007, Mike Hoffman scored the winner early in the third period and goaltender Craig Anderson came up big, sending the series to Game 7 on Thursday night at Pittsburgh’s PPG Paints Arena. The victor will will face the Nashville Predators in the Stanley Cup final, starting Monday.
“We wanted to force Game 7 and that’s what we did — especially in the second period,” forward Zack Smith said. “Andy was huge tonight again. He’s the difference.”
Smith said he knew people thought they were finished.
“That’s fine with us. I feel it’s been that way for most of the year and playoffs. That’s fine, we’ll play that role,” Smith said.
Much was made of the fact the building wasn’t full, but the crowd had lots to cheer about as Bobby Ryan also scored for the Senators on Matt Murray. Only Evgeni Malkin was able to score for the Penguins.
Hoffman’s second goal of the series at 1:34 of the third was a blast Murray never stood a chance on as the puck went off the post and into the net.
“I wouldn’t say I closed my eyes. I was shooting for that side of the net,” Hoffman said. “I was just waiting for (Fred) Claesson, he did a good job kicking it out to me and driving through their (defence), I paused for a second to give a little more time to clear that lane on the far side and (Murray) didn’t see it.”
Had it not been for Anderson, the Senators wouldn’t have stood a chance going into the third. Despite being outshot 23-10 in the second period and 34-19 overall, they were tied 1-1 with the Penguins after finally scoring with the man advantage.
“The moment I got yanked in that game. It’s gone. You can’t change what’s happened in the past,” said Anderson, asked when he put the last game behind him. “From that moment on, you have to look forward and get ready for the next one.”
The Senators credited a team meeting Monday where they talked as a group about the fact they had a great opportunity and they shouldn’t let it slip away.
“We got together and aired some stuff out,” defenceman Marc Methot said. “It was honestly just a good, positive talk. It just kind of put everything into perspective that it takes eight exhibition games and 82 games to get into the playoffs, let alone get to the third round and this isn’t an opportunity that we want to waste.”
The Senators tied it up at 13:51 of the second with their first power-play goal in 11 games, ending an 0-for-29 slump. Ryan scored during a two-man advantage, firing the puck by Murray on the stick side.
“I don’t want to say it was a turning point, but it was a building point for our offensive side of things,” Ryan said. “It’s amazing what not holding on the puck will do. You just try to find a lane, try to find a lucky goal. To see it go in I think we, and the Sens community, took a collective breath there.”
Malkin, one of the best players in this series, opened the scoring at 4:51 of the second period. He was able to pick up his own rebound to beat Anderson with a backhand on the glove side to give the Penguins a 1-0 lead.
Just before that, Penguins defenceman Trevor Daley had a goal called back after he stuffed the puck underneath Anderson. With the Penguins celebrating at their bench, Boucher used his challenge to argue for a goalie-interference call and, after a lengthy review, it was determined that Anderson had been pushed into the net.
“Daley prevented Anderson from doing his job in his crease,” the NHL said in a statement.
The Senators and Penguins were scoreless through the first period. Pittsburgh had the edge on the shot clock at 11-9 while both Anderson and Murray looked sharp. Both had the benefit shots that went off the post but the Senators were able to dodge trouble by killing off two Pittsburgh power plays.
This likely wasn’t the kind of start the Senators wanted in a game with the season on the line.
The Penguins had lots of early pressure in the Ottawa zone and were able to survive whatever push Ottawa tried to muster.