KANATA, ONTARIO -- “Great moments are born from great opportunity,” said four-year-old “Rizzo,” echoing the words of legendary Team USA head coach Herb Brooks from his pre-game speech in the 1980 Miracle on Ice victory over the Soviet Union. “And that’s what you have here tonight, boys. That’s what you’ve earned here, tonight. One game.”
The crowd at Scotiabank Place responded with adulation at the video clip played during the second TV timeout of the third period of Game 6 of the quarterfinals showdown between Pittsburgh and Ottawa.
The Senators, who avoided elimination with a close, triple-overtime victory in Game 5 just two days prior in Pittsburgh, were clinging to a 3-2 lead over the Penguins. It appeared that Game 7 would be necessary to decide this series winner after Ottawa jumped out to a 3-0 lead halfway through the second period. However, the Penguins clawed back into the game to make it a one-goal contest
Then, with the Senators holding a 3-2 lead with just 7:42 remaining in regulation to force a do-or-die Game 7, “Rizzo” appeared on the scoreboard.
“Tonight, we stay with ‘em, and we shut them down because we can
,” Rizzo shouted. “Tonight, we are the greatest hockey team in the world. You were born to be hockey players – every one of you. And you were meant to be here tonight.”
The sold out crowd of 20,122 at Scotiabank roared when Rizzo delivered his next line:
“This is your time. Their time – is done. It’s over
Apparently no one informed the Penguins, the reigning Stanley Cup champions, that their time is done and over.
Six seconds after the crowd's climactic cacophoniess as Rizzo finished his speech, “This is your time. Now go out there and take it
!” Pittsburgh won a faceoff in the Ottawa zone and the building whimpered in silence as Matt Cooke
knocked in a rebound off Mark Eaton’s shot from the near point to tie the game at 3-3.
And just like that, all the momentum the Penguins had built from the second period on culminated in the game-tying goal, and the second from Cooke in the game.
When Pascal Dupuis
lifted a shot over the shoulder of Senators netminder Pascal Leclaire 9:56 into the first overtime session to end Ottawa’s season and push the Penguins into the semifinals round, Pittsburgh officially declared that its time is not done or over yet.
“Great moment," Dupuis said of his overtime goal. If only he had added that the great moment was born out of great opportunity. "I didn’t know it was in until everybody start jumping on me. It’s an unbelievable feeling. I struggled last year in playoffs last year scoring goals. I did not score in the playoffs. This one feels unbelievable.”
Dupuis was the recipient of some great legwork from Jordan Staal
. Staal gained possession of the puck in the Senators zone and skated in circles, even banking a pass to himself off the back of the net, until he found Dupuis in the far faceoff dot. Dupuis one-timed a shot into the far top corner of the net.
“Jordan made a great play,” Dupuis said. “I thought he had me right away. He felt like he needed to beat another guy on his back. He made a great pass. I just put it on net. I still don’t know where it went in. I heard a little post but not sure where it went in.”
“Staalsy held the puck for a while and made a great play,” defenseman Brooks Orpik
said. “He drew a couple guys. It didn’t look like (Dupuis) had much of an angle. Leclaire played well all night. He didn’t give us much. It was either going to be a shot like that or a rebound.”
The win was eerily similar to the Penguins’ 5-3 Game 6 victory at Philadelphia last season that knocked the Flyers out of the quarterfinals round. In that game, Pittsburgh fell behind 3-0 before rallying with five unanswered goals to end Philadelphia’s season.
Pittsburgh found itself trailing 3-0 to Ottawa after Daniel Alfredsson scored 9:48 into the second period. The Penguins shrugged off the deficit and answered with four unanswered goals to dispatch the Senators to the golf course for the summer.
“We were pretty calm and confident,” Orpik said. “Any time you go down 3-0, especially against a team like this with a goalie that’s playing that well, you stay confident but chances of coming back aren’t very good. We just stuck with it and battled as hard as we could. The attitude we had on the bench, everyone was really calm and stayed composed.”
“One of the things that we talked about going into the playoffs was continuing to focus and staying unflappable,” head coach Dan Bylsma said. “Whatever comes our way, whether its us losing a game or whatever happens in a game when we get a goal called back in the first, to just stay course and keep on the game plan.
“Tonight it was probably our best game in that regard. Our bench was rock solid and focused. … They got the lead and there were points that were difficult to handle as far as getting scored on but our guys were rock solid on the bench, said the right things, went over the boards and did the right things to respond. That’s a true sign of our team, what we’ve done in the past, but also this year being unflappable in how we want to play.”
Cooke started the rally by answering Ottawa’s third goal with a tally just 1:08 later to spark some life into the Penguins. Cooke found a loose puck above the crease, calmly turned it over to his backhanded and pushed it into the net.
“Anytime you go down 3-0 you are gonna fight an uphill battle,” blueliner Mark Eaton said. “I don’t want to say there wasn’t any doubt. If there was, that doubt was eliminated when we got a quick goal after they scored their third. That first goal was huge as far as the mental aspect.”
The Penguins opened the final period trailing 3-1. Pittsburgh carried the play in the second half of the second period and wanted to keep things going entering the third. During the second intermission, the team talked about staying focused and staying with their strategy in the next 20 minutes of play.
“We just wanted to stick to the game plan. We talked about it after the second,” Eaton said. “We didn’t have to go out there and get two goals right away. Just get one in each of the 10 minutes, and that’s what we did. Eventually we wore them down and got it in overtime.”
“When you’re down 3-0 you need a wakeup call,” Dupuis said. “We have leaders in this locker room that stepped up in the second intermission. It was big for us.”
Bill Guerin ripped a slap shot from the above the near circle into the goal on a power play seven minutes into the third frame to pull Pittsburgh to within a goal. And that set the stage for Rizzo’s omen. After that it was the Penguins game, and they went out there and took it.
“I think there have been questions from outside our locker room about getting to our game and inconsistencies,” Bylsma said. “I think in this series numerous times you saw us, Game 1 was not a great game for us. We had to respond and come back from that.
“Coming back here for Game 6 and dealing with the ups and downs of this game, the test of the playoffs is it’s not easy. They don't hand you the games. They don’t hand you the points. They don’t hand you the goals. We’re playing good teams that play very well. This team played very well. They had a great structure to their game, and at times were able to exploit us a little bit in terms of rushes or D jumping in. We had to keep responding. We got tested for sure.”
And the Penguins passed the test, while the Senators learned the tough lesson that Pittsburgh’s time isn’t over yet.
And maybe next year Ottawa won’t use the inspirational words of Herb Brooks to fire up its team and crowd. The Senators should have known better.
After all, Brooks wasn’t Canadian. He was an American.