VANCOUVER -- Ottawa Senators forward Clarke MacArthur was hoping he'd get this opportunity years ago.
As a young player with the Buffalo Sabres, he was sent to the American Hockey League two days before the 2008 Winter Classic against the Pittsburgh Penguins, a landmark event that set the precedent for the numerous stadium games that would follow. So when MacArthur took the ice for Ottawa at the 2014 Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic at BC Place on Sunday, he made sure not to squander another opportunity to play on one of hockey's grandest stages.
Left Wing - OTT
GOALS: 19 | ASST: 25 | PTS: 44
SOG: 117 | +/-: 8
"[It was] a pretty cool experience with the momentum swings and the fans getting going," MacArthur said after Ottawa's 4-2 win against the Vancouver Canucks
. "I think after the 10-minute mark, we dealt with it better and we started to play our game and started to play hockey."
Down 2-0 and outshot 11-4 early in Vancouver, MacArthur was the lynchpin as Ottawa began to find its game. He started the comeback by tipping Erik Condra's shot past goaltender Eddie Lack with 4:45 remaining in the first. Less than two minutes later, he made a crucial play on the power play, beating Ryan Kesler to a loose puck along the half wall to maintain possession with a quick pass to Erik Karlsson. Seconds later, the puck was in the net and the game was tied 2-2.
"Clarky has been clutch for us all year," Ottawa captain Jason Spezza said. "That's a great tip on the first one and that gives us life. He's played extremely well for us all year."
Entering the Heritage Classic, MacArthur had gone pointless in six games, a frustrating run that followed a strong stretch in which he collected seven goals and 13 points in 11 games. Following his bounce-back performance at BC Place, that slump was well in MacArthur's rear view.
"It's good to get a couple and find the net," he said. "It happens. You go up and down throughout a season. You can't stay hot all year long. So you have to battle through the ups and downs and try to do other things right. Just know there's a light at the end of the tunnel and it's coming. Tonight I got on the board and hopefully I can keep going."
MacArthur continued to have chances after Ottawa tied the game and took the lead on Cody Ceci's eventual game-winner midway through the second period. MacArthur and his linemates, Kyle Turris and Erik Condra, stormed the Ottawa net much of the game. The trio hit the post no fewer than three times and helped set up a point shot from Ceci that somehow hit both posts before sliding back out of the crease through Lack's legs.
"I think our line generated quite a few opportunities, we hit three or four posts and had a lot of opportunities," said Turris, who had plenty of praise for MacArthur. "He's a great player. He sees the ice so well, is real fast and has a great shot."
The win provided two points that should prove crucial in Ottawa's quest for a playoff spot. But it also provided MacArthur with a happy ending more than six years after he was held out of the inaugural Winter Classic, an event that was a frigid contrast to BC Place's temperate indoor atmosphere.
"With this one we didn't have to freeze out there. That was nice. The ice held up pretty good until about midway through the third," MacArthur said. "All in all, it was a great experience."