If you watched the entirety of Game 7, you probably felt it all along: the sense that, “Man, I don’t know how the Penguins could lose this one, but Ottawa is something special.” Well, after so many good chances and little response from the Senators, the Penguins finally eliminated the Senators in the second overtime, with a 3-2 win that advanced the defending champions to their second straight Stanley Cup Final.
After a scoreless first period, the Penguins struck first in the second, but the Senators wouldn’t budge. Twenty seconds after Chris Kunitz scored on a 2-on-1 breakaway ten minutes into the second period, Mark Stone answered for the Senators with a top-shelf wrister from closer range to keep the game 1-1.
In the third period, Justin Schultz took a pass high in the zone and flung it side post to beat the magnificent Craig Anderson, who had no vision due to traffic in front of him. It seemed a little late for the Senators, who were having trouble establishing an offensive zone presence, to come back and tie, but a little desperation can do a lot.
Three minutes after the Penguins again took the lead, Erik Karlsson ripped a shot from the high slot, bouncing off the post and right onto Ryan Dzingel’s stick, who evened the score with a rebound past Matt Murray.
From there, Anderson stole the show for the next 30 minutes. He kept the game tied on what looked like an easy Brian Dumoulin tap-in after Evgeni Malkin hit the post with 4:30 to go.
The first overtime was relatively quiet in terms of shot production, but a couple of the Penguins’ chances, especially Phil Kessel’s breakaway that went wide...
...and this ridiculous Anderson save on Dumoulin that he made while reaching down to pick up a stick...
...and, later, Kessel’s “where’s the puck” moment that prompted howls of protest from the Pittsburgh faithful who thought the puck was in the net...
were better-than-not opportunities for the Penguins.
But Kunitz, the man who started the scoring in Game 7, would give the Pittsburgh crowd a reason to erupt, beating Anderson top shelf with a knuckle-puck five minutes into the second overtime to give the Penguins the opportunity to defend their Stanley Cup title and potentially become the first repeat champions since the 1998 Red Wings.
The online community seemed to agree that no matter that outcome, what Anderson did in goal last night was insane. He made more than a few big saves, whether a pad save while throwing a stick out of the crease or leaping to guide a shot off the post, on his way to a 40-save night.
And the game wasn’t without controversy, as Kessel went to the ice with an apparent injury while Ottawa was in the offensive zone, drawing a quick whistle to stop play (Zach Werenski sends his regards) and incensing the Senators offense. Kessel also pretty well sold one of the few penalties of the game, an interference call in the third period, that led to Schultz’s goal.
But isn’t it cool that Ron Hainsey, Mr. No Playoffs two months ago, is now in the Stanley Cup Final? And watching last night, I saw the other former Hurricane from this year, Viktor Stalberg, chasing down the puck as quick as any Senator, battling hard to give the Senators a chance to get in the zone.
Here’s a broad look at the fanbases going into Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final, courtesy of me:
Enjoy your weekend. The big stage opens Monday night at 8:00.