OTTAWA – There were two games where the Eastern Conference First Round series between the Ottawa Senators and Montreal Canadiens turned.
The Senators put themselves in a great position to win those two games, lost them both and now their storybook season is over.
Ottawa outshot Montreal 43-20 in Game 6 on Sunday but lost the game 2-0 and the series 4-2.
While Game 6 clinched the series, it could be argued it was lost for the Senators in a 2-1 loss in Game 3 when Canadiens forward Dale Weise scored the tying goal at 14:13 of the third period and the winner at 8:47 of overtime.
"We played really well today," Senators captain Erik Karlsson said. "I thought our Game 3 was really tough for us. We played really well there and losing that game hurt us more than I think we thought it did. But we didn’t let it bother us, we just kept on going. That’s all we ask of ourselves, is taking one game at a time. That’s what I think we’ve been doing for a very long time now. It’s been helping us win games and get to the position we are right now."
Karlsson is right that the Game 3 loss that put the Senators in a 3-0 hole in the series was the turning point, but they did everything they needed to do to win Sunday and force a Game 7 in Montreal on Tuesday.
Everything but beat Canadiens goalie Carey Price.
It was the first time the Senators were shutout all season, and it came at the worst possible time.
But it was not due to a lack of effort.
From the moment when Price went post-to-post to rob Kyle Turris with a tremendous blocker save with just under five minutes remaining in the first period to the save in the final minute of the third period when Clarke MacArthur’s shot trickled by inches to the wrong side of the goalpost, the Senators were playing the right way, as players like to say.
That’s what made the loss more difficult for Ottawa to take.
"It’s frustrating," Turris said. "I mean there were other games where we didn’t get any bounces either. It’s something where it’s one or two bounces either way, we win the series or we’re going to Game 7."
MacArthur was the one who passed to Turris on a 2-on-1 break for the chance late in the first period that Price turned aside with an acrobatic lunge, and he was the one who had the final chance in a frantic finish to the game when the Senators created a number of goalmouth scrambles but couldn’t get the puck past Price with their season on the line.
The final chance came from MacArthur, and he was sure it was the one that would finally go in.
"Just heartbreak," MacArthur said. "I honestly thought it was in right off the bat, but it just missed wide. [Turris] did such a good job on five or six of those faceoffs to give us opportunities, we had scrums, we had everything we wanted. Everything but a goal."
After everything the Senators did to reach the Stanley Cup Playoffs, becoming the first team to erase a 14-point deficit and reach the postseason, to have it end in such an excruciating way makes the pain that much more severe.
MacArthur, who was injured for much of Ottawa’s late run, said battling to the final game of the regular season just to get in took its toll on the Senators during the series.
"I had a little break in there, a little hiatus, but the guys were going to the wall every night," MacArthur said. "What a gutsy group. You could see we were fatigued, obviously. You battle right to Philadelphia just to get in the playoffs, and to have a series like we just had, you lay it on the line. Just fell short."