You say you didn’t expect that overtime snipe by Kyle Turris?
Reconsider. He’s one of the more natural overtime goal scorers the Senators have produced in some time.
No, his name is not Alfredsson, Spezza or even Michalek.
Never mind that Turris was suffering a mild crisis of confidence before producing his first goal of these playoffs at the greatest possible time — in overtime in Game 4 of Ottawa’s Eastern Conference quarterfinal series, now tied 2-2, with the New York Rangers.
At least Turris is an offensive player. Not yet 23, his best NHL seasons are in front of him, but Turris, a third overall draft pick of the Phoenix Coyotes in 2007, once scored 66 goals in 53 BCHL (tier two junior in B.C.) games.
Check out Ottawa’s previous four game-winning goal scorers in the playoffs:
1. Chris Neil, OT Game 2 versus New York Rangers, April 11, 2012
2. Matt Carkner, 3OT versus Pittsburgh Penguins, Game 5, April 22, 2010.
3. Jarkko Ruutu Game 1 versus Penguins, April 14, 2010.
4. Dean McAmmond, Game 3 Cup final, June 2, 2007.
Wonder how people felt when they first drew those names out of a hat in the GWG pool?
Did they throw the piece of paper up in the air and laugh?
A quick story from the road. A group of Ottawa media were in New York City to cover Games 1 and 2 of this series, watching playoff hockey at a Manhattan bar when the Philadelphia-Pittsburgh game went into overtime.
Naturally, an overtime pool broke out. As sports scribes and TV reporters, we knew these rosters pretty well, going up and down the lineups picking names in the order drawn.
Imagine the possibilities: Malkin, Crosby, Neal, Letang, Staal, Giroux, Brière, Jagr, Couturier, Hartnell etc. We didn’t pick every last roster player, but figured we’d covered the main suspects and more.
And the OT goal was scored by … a player no one had, Jakub Voracek of the Flyers.
It has often been like this, down through the years. Toronto Maple Leafs fans didn’t expect bruising defenceman Bobby Baun to score an overtime winner in the 1964 Stanley Cup final, especially after he had broken his ankle earlier in the game.
Not that the greats don’t score big goals, too. Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Bobby Orr and the other elite of the sport have had their golden spring moments.
Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson scored FOUR game-winning goals in Ottawa’s run to the Cup final in 2007.
But in the physical, grinding series this spring, role players are often playing a hero’s role. At Madison Square Garden last Thursday, the Senators’ Neil, a third-line winger and fighter, seemed the perfect overtime scorer in a punishing Game 2 against the Rangers.
Carkner, who scored one of the most famous playoff goals in Senators history, the triple-OT thriller in Pittsburgh two years ago, believes the tight checking and physical play in the spring produces a wider variety of heroes.
“On any given day, it can be anyone doing those kinds of things,” Carkner says. “You see guys step up here and there. It’s just the intensity of it, everyone’s working so hard trying to claw their way to the net. And you never know who’s going to score that big goal.”
With four career NHL goals, Carkner is more a fighter than finisher, grinding it out in the minors for nine years before joining the Senators three years ago at age 29.
Zenon Konopka, the former Ottawa 67’s centre, literally fought his way to the show.
The mere sight of the giant media scrums at the locker stalls of Carkner and Konopka on Thursday told a story of redemption and hope, and the stuff of childhood dreams.
What a miserable time of it these two had for much of the season. Now, they’re playing big roles in a tough, can’t-yield-an-inch series that suits them like a tossed hockey glove.
Injured for the first part of the year, Carkner saw action in just 29 games and was a healthy roster scratch in 24. Konopka did not dress for 27 games. Combined, they sat out more than half the season, never griping, working extra at practice to be ready if needed.
There was Konopka, one of the game’s most colourful characters, taking key faceoffs and killing penalties — even counseling teammates — in Wednesday’s crucial win.
And there was Carkner setting up the first Ottawa goal by Milan Michalek, ending the spell cast by Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, whose shutout ruled Game 3. In Game 2, the same Carkner pounded on Rangers centre Brian Boyle to atone for liberties taken with Senators defenceman Erik Karlsson.
“The game changes in the playoffs, the intensity goes up,” Konopka says. “Some players’ skill set or mindset is favoured when you’re going punch for punch with another team, blow for blow.”
Punch for punch. Blow for blow.
Now he’s talking Carkner-Konopka language.