Video: THE OTHER SIDE | Senators Post-Game
EDMONTON, AB - Sometimes, the stories within the game transcend the result.
The Oilers were hosting the Ottawa Senators, trying to extend their win-streak to six. But in the other dressing room, a player and a team were living with the reality that the game is just a game in the end, and life brings with it very real challenges.
"We love hockey, it's a great game, but there are things that are bigger," said Ottawa Head Coach Guy Boucher.
Ottawa goaltender Craig Anderson's wife Nicholle, 35, was diagnosed with cancer this week. He was given a leave of absence, Thursday, to deal with the personal matter. But following an injury to fellow netminder Andrew Hammond - and at the urging of Nicholle - Anderson returned to the team and started against the Oilers.
Not only did he start, Anderson shut out Edmonton, making 37 saves.
"He put on a strong face but you could still see the pain in his eyes," said Ottawa Captain Erik Karlsson. "He came and really led by example. He didn't say much. He did the same thing, the same routine. He really showed what a leader he is. I think every individual here did whatever we could to make sure he didnt have anything else to think about. He had a hell of a game, and got us two points."
Following the win, Anderson was swarmed by his supportive teammates as he let the emotions of the night spill over.
"That was hard, especially when you got close to Andy and saw that he was getting a little emotional and had some tears. Any time you see a brother like that start to cry a bit and be emotional it just goes through the whole locker room," said Senators defenceman Marc Methot.
As the three stars were announced, Anderson waited alone in the hallway behind the Senators bench, head down, as his teammates walked by in silence. When Anderson's name was announced as the first star of the night, the emotional netminder skated onto the ice to a near thunderous applause from the fans in attendance. From the other bench, Oilers goaltender Cam Talbot stood at the opening to the hall lending his support to his opponent.
"Really classy," said Methot. "They have fantastic fans here, obviously. To see an opponent stay out there and show some respect is huge. It's always nice to see some good sportsmanship out there."
"I think it was special for our goaltender, his wife, his family, our players," said Boucher. "I really respected the fact that the Oilers organization, the players, their fans showed a lot of respect and support."
The Oilers coaching staff wore their purple "Hockey Fights Cancer" ties on the Edmonton bench during the game, signifying their support for Anderson.
The sound of applause filtered out of the Ottawa locker room after the win. The normal yelling and laughter associated with a victory did not.
"Emotional, I think, is one word," said Sens forward Bobby Ryan. "Leaving the Xs and Os aside, it was an emotional night for us as a team. What Andy did tonight was pretty incredible to be around."
Save after save Anderson made to keep his team in the game, and then ahead after Mike Hoffman scored his first of the season at 12:18 of the second. Anderson did not crack under the pressure of 18 third-period shots from the Oilers, and he did not crack from the emotion until the end.
"As the game went on, you were watching Craig and you couldn't help but be inspired by him," said Boucher.
Inspired, and determined to get their teammate a win, Ottawa kept the Oilers off the board completely.
"We expected that from that team," said Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan. "They're proud players and they're going to play that way for a teammate. He had an exceptional night."
"That's what a team is all about," said Oilers Captain Connor McDavid. "When one guy is in a bit of a situation and obviously it's a terrible thing that's going on, the other team battled harder and pulled out a great game for him."
The Oilers wanted to win the game, but they're not impervious to the emotions of the evening.
"Our whole team feels for him," said Oilers winger Jordan Eberle. "It's pretty amazing that he got out there today and posted a shutout. Congrats to him for sure."