The hockey gods are looking out for the Ottawa Senators after all.
Kyle Turris’s goal, 2:42 into overtime, gave the Senators a 3-2 victory over the Montreal Canadiens Tuesday in a game that appeared long, long gone only a few minutes earlier.
But suddenly, the Senators have a 3-1 series lead, with a chance to finish off the Canadiens at Montreal’s Bell Centre on Thursday.
The final few minutes of regulation were hard to believe.
With only 22.6 seconds remaining and Senators goaltender Craig Anderson on the bench for an extra skater, Cory Conacher tied the game, a contest the Canadiens had controlled most of the night.
Then, with only a few seconds left in regulation, Canadiens goaltender Carey Price reached high to stop a shot from Mika Zibanejad. Price reacted oddly, went down and then limped off the ice in obvious pain.
When the overtime started, backup Peter Budaj was in Price’s spot in the Canadiens net.
The winning goal came on a Turris shot that floated past a screened Budaj.
There was no immediate word on Price’s status.
It was as unpredictable a finish as you will ever see.
On Conacher’s tying goal, Daniel Alfredsson had control of the puck behind the Canadiens net and threw it into the slot. The puck bounced off a couple of sticks and slid to Conacher, who slapped it underneath Price for the tying goal.
The goal was the first of Conacher’s playoff career and he jumped high in the air in celebration. The sellout crowd of 20,500 at Scotiabank Place erupted in jubilation.
The Canadiens were seemingly well in control of the game midway through the third period, having effectively shut down the Senators.
But Ottawa pushed back late, catching a break when Zibanejad narrowed the gap to 2-1 with 8:55 remaining. The puck went in off Zibanejad’s skate following a pass from the boards by Chris Neil, and it held up following video review.
Up to that point, the Senators couldn’t solve Price — and they didn’t have much energy, either.
After a scoreless first period, the Canadiens took control of the game on goals by P.K. Subban and Alex Galchenyuk only 1:02 apart early in the second period. Subban beat Anderson high to the stick side and Galchenyuk’s goal beat him over the trapper.
The Senators came into the game saying all the right things about not letting up, about hitting, hitting and hitting some more, about giving not giving life to a down-and-out, supposedly mentally fragile Canadiens team.
Instead, they laid an egg for the opening two periods. They come out flat. The power play was awful. Then they allowed the second period goals to Subban and Galchenyuk.
It wasn’t exactly what the crowd expected, especially following the euphoria of Sunday’s fight-filled 6-1 victory.
There was no carry-over of momentum — the Senators didn’t get a shot on goal until the eight-minute mark.
In the early going, it was the Canadiens who displayed impressive resilience.
For all those who assumed they were dead and buried following the Sunday blowout, defenceman Josh Gorges insisted there was fight left in Montreal.
“We know how we have to compete, we have to outwill that team,” Gorges said before Tuesday’s game. “It’s not going to be easy. We’re going to have to scratch, claw and fight.”
That they did.
But the Senators did their part to scratch and claw their way to the end of regulation.
Kyle Turris, Senators
His overtime goal is the second of his playoff career. He also scored against the New York Rangers in Game 4 of the first round last season.
Peter Budaj, Canadiens
Difficult situation, of course, but an NHL goaltender can’t allow that Turris shot to get in the net.
WHY THEY WON
They kept pushing and pushing and caught a series of breaks: A bounce off Mika Zibanejad’s skate, a last-minute goal in regulation and an unfortunate injury to Carey Price.
GRYBA BACK, NO FUSS
For all the talk about possible retribution against Eric Gryba, the Canadiens didn’t go out of their way to hit him. Brandon Prust picked up a roughing penalty for bumping him in the first period, but other than that, there was no extra shots against the Senators defenceman.