MONTREAL — Goaltending was the backbone of the Ottawa Senators’ regular season success.
Why would the playoffs be any different?
The Senators’ impressive third period comeback en route to a 4-2 victory in the series opener wouldn’t have been possible without the stellar work of Craig Anderson earlier in the game.
Anderson is responsible for stealing this one, a game that featured a little bit of everything: A spirited third period comeback by the Senators, a crushing open ice hit by Eric Gryba on Lars Eller, some dazzling plays by the series’ marquee names — Erik Karlsson and P.K. Subban — an apparent third period tying goal by the Canadiens that was waved off by the officials and a Senators goal which held up following a video review.
After Anderson kept the Senators afloat in the second period — making 25 saves in those 20 minutes alone — a more composed, structured Senators team took the ice for the third period.
Jakob Silfverberg tied the game with a slapshot that slipped through Canadiens goaltender Carey Price, tying the game 3:27 into the period. Only 1:53 later, Marc Methot’s floating wrist shot — with Milan Michalek blocking Price — found the top of the net.
Guillaume Latendresse, returning to the place where his NHL career began as a teenager, then put the icing on the cake with 6:05 to go. Latendresse drove to the net and caught a break when the puck bounced off him and sailed over Price’s head. The goal held up following video review.
Only seconds earlier, a potential Canadiens’ tying goal had been waved off when it was ruled that Brandon Prust had interfered with Anderson.
The Senators’ control of the third period was in stark contrast to the Canadiens’ domination of the second.
The Senators had led 1-0 on Karlsson’s first period goal, a pretty give-and-go with Kyle Turris.
Then the game — and the series — really started.
The Canadiens cranked up the intensity and took control.
The onslaught began when Subban caught Chris Neil with his head down, waking up the Bell Centre crowd.
For the first 13 minutes of the second period, the story was about Anderson and more Anderson. He stopped 16 shots in the first 10 minutes of the period. Finally, with 6:51 left in the period, Rene Bourque found the range, circling out from behind the net and flipping a backhand over Anderson’s shoulder.
The Canadiens were rolling, the building was rocking. But the fireworks were just starting.
Only 19 seconds after Bourque’s goal, Eric Gryba caught Lars Eller with his head down at the blueline. Gryba’s shoulder hit Eller flush in the face and Eller appeared to be out before hitting the ice. Eller left a pool of blood on the ice and it took several minutes before he got to his feet. He was taken off the ice on a stretcher.
Forget Neil. Gryba instantly became the most hated member of the Senators.
Gryba received a five-minute major for interference and a game misconduct.
The Canadiens capitalized on the ensuing power play, with rookie Brendan Gallagher finishing off a cross crease pass from Tomas Plekanec.
The Senators, however, were fortunate to only be down 2-1 after two periods. After Jean-Gabriel Pageau received a tripping penalty, the they were forced to kill off a 5-on-3 for 1:22.
Craig Anderson, Senators
He stole this one, plain and simple. He stopped 25 shots in the second period alone and 48 in the game, allowing the Senators to stay close when the Canadiens could have easily romped to victory.
Carey Price, Canadiens
From Karlsson’s shot between his legs to Silfverberg’s slapshot to Methot’s wrist shot to the big rebound ricochet off Guillaume Latendresse, pucks slipped through him into the net. The Senators had 31 shots.
WHY THEY WON
They hung and hung on and hung on some more, until they finally produced a solid period — the third. It was rather ugly, but nobody was complaining in the dressing room.
HEAD DOWN, HEAD SHOT
Yes, Lars Eller’s head was down as he looked down for the puck, but Eric Gryba’s shoulder caught him in the face. A suspension to Gryba is possible. The only argument from the Senators is that the game misconduct Gryba received is equivalent to losing the better part of a game.
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