If there’s one thing that the Ottawa Senators have proven in this shortened season, it’s that they have excelled when their backs have been against the wall.
Down 2-0 in a second round series against the NHL-dominating Pittsburgh Penguins, the Pesky Sens took game three in their first home game on May 19, 2013. The series is now led by the Penguins by a mark of 2-1.
After losing a rough game one in Steeltown, the Sens came back and made game two a close one, losing only by a score of 4-3, but still came out of Pittsburgh empty-handed.
But much like the storybook season of this team, and in a game that couldn’t have played out in a more fairy-tale-esque manner, another chapter opened, as an old familiar character was ready to join his fellow battlers for the first time since January; Jason Spezza.
Winning 15 of 25 faceoffs, Spezza showed that he was up to snuff and was skating hard all over the ice. He created two quality scoring chances for the Sens, firing a quick pass back to the point from behind Vokoun and just missing a tip-in (which ended up drawing a penalty as he was hacked in the process).
With the pressure-heat blasting, the Sens came out firing and were creating chances, but they couldn’t solve the riddle of Vokoun. Unfortunately, part way through the second, Tyler Kennedy took advantage of a defensive error by Milan Michalek and gave the Pens a 1-0 lead.
Anderson kept his team in the game, though, making save after impossible save, and allowed his team to create chances.
With less than a minute left in third, however, it seemed like the Sens would be heading into game four down 3 games to 0. But as Karlsson sat in the box for a questionable call, the fearless, wizened captain Alfreddsson started up the ice (short-handed) and headed for the net. With 28.6 seconds left in the third period, after a quick shot-pass by Michalek from the blue line, Alfie tipped an unbelievable goal into the top left corner over Vokoun’s shoulder.
And just like that, the game was tied and the Sens had new life in the series. Sid the kid almost ended the game on a slap shot with 5 seconds left, but Anderson was there to close the door (thanks to Jared Cowen who lay down to block Sid’s wrister, only giving him a raised angle).
Two overtimes and many close calls later, the Sens finally got some puck luck as Andre ‘Benny’ Benoit charged the net, fired an awkward wrister and Colin Greening was there to dump in the rebound.
The Sens will try to keep things close to the chest again in game four on Wednesday night, as their best chances against Pittsburgh (and against any team they have played this year) have happened when they have kept the scoring low.
No matter how this season ends, though, I want to go on the record and say that I’m proud of this team. Despite classless jabs from Leafs and Habs fans alike (and whose teams both played well this year), maybe the Sens will finally start to earn some respect from the big market fans. I’m not saying you have to like them – I’m just saying that their organization deserves a little credit for 14 out of 20 years in the playoffs (since their return to the NHL), and an amazing season thus far.