The similarities to last year are striking. The fourth-seeded Penguins blow a chance to clinch their first-round series at home only to stage a miraculous comeback on the road in game six to advance to the second round.
Last year, trailing 3-1, the fifth-seeded Philadelphia Flyers captured momentum by winning game five in Pittsburgh. Philly carried the momentum into game six flying out to a 3-0 lead early in the second period. Sound familiar?
Tonight’s game against Ottawa was minus the instantly legendary fight involving Max Talbot, but the furious and calculated comeback was the same. Last year it was two goals from Sidney Crosby that led the charge, this year it was determination and grit from the role players that enabled Pittsburgh to advance.
It seemed like game seven was a lock when Senators’ captain Daniel Aldfredsson gave the home squad a 3-0 lead midway through the second period. However, just 1:08 later, agitator Matt Cooke scored the first of his two back-hand goals to ignite the Pens.
When the Penguins took the ice for the third period they left little doubt that they believed victory was possible. The dominating stanza, in which the Pens outshot the Sens 18-4, was highlighted by a Bill Guerin goal at 7:03 as the power play ticked off its final seconds, and then Cooke’s second with 7:36 remaining in regulation that knotted the score.
As you know, Pascal Dupuis unleashed a wicked wrister off a nice dish from Jordan Staal to send Penguin nation into celebration 9:56 into overtime. It was Dupuis’ first goal of the playoffs.
A lot is made of the importance of secondary scoring. In tonight’s victory, Sidney Crosby did not register a point and Evgeni Malkin only a secondary assist. The bulk of the production came from the third line.
Marc-Andre Fleury also deserves credit for making 28 saves and keeping the game in striking distance as the Senators hit the ice in a full sprint to start the contest. Ottawa opened on fire, while the Pens were slow, deliberate, passive, and downright boring. Fleury also made several key saves throughout, including the beginning of OT.
The Penguins can still play any of the remaining Eastern Conference teams except Washington. It is always more fun to track the other games once your team has advanced. Let’s hope the Washington/Montreal and Boston/Buffalo series go seven games.
No. 1 Star: The media selected Dupuis and he is a good choice, scoring the GWG and adding an assist, but I’m going with Matt Cooke. His first goal gave the Penguins life, his second goal tied the score. Cooke was also a game-best +3.
Blew A Tire: Usually the losing team fills this slate, but the Senators played a pretty solid game and didn’t have anyone worse than -1. Penguin winger Chris Kunitz was a -3, not a positive stat. However, he did hand out six hits.
Interesting Note: The Pens were 3-0 on the road in this series, 1-2 at home.