In the 48 hours leading up to Game 5 the Penguins talked as a team about how picking up the fourth and deciding victory in this best-of-seven series would be the toughest to secure.
I’m not sure they expected that eliminating the Senators would require quite the overtime it’s going to take.
Despite coming back from an early 2-0 deficit, and even taking a 3-2 lead 9:01 into the third period on Sidney Crosby
’s fifth goal of the postseason, it’s going to take the Penguins at least six games to knock off the Senators following Ottawa’s 4-3 triple-overtime victory in Game 5.
The Senators skated away with the victory to stay alive when defenseman Matt Carkner’s shot from the right point deflected off Matt Cooke
in the high slot and ricocheted past Marc-Andre Fleury
7:06 into period six to cut Pittsburgh’s series lead to 3-2.
“That’s the playoffs,” Crosby said. “That’s what makes it so great. You never want to be on this side of triple overtime but that is part of the challenge. That is why you play the game. Nobody said they were going to go without fighting. They showed it tonight.”
“It was fun going into overtime,” Fleury said. “It was exciting, but it was tough to lose that way for sure. We’ll be ready for the next one.”
Yes, there is no question it was a tough way for the Penguins to lose, but the fact remains that Pittsburgh still needs to win one of their next two games to win the race to four, and the triple-overtime affair at Mellon Arena was some of the best hockey we have seen this season, even if the result didn’t end in the home team’s favor.
During the 47:06 minutes of bonus hockey, neither team sat back and reacted like most overtime contests, as back and forth heavy-hitting action dominated the longest NHL postseason game since the Penguins’ 4-3 triple-overtime victory over the Detroit Red Wings in Game 5 of the 2008 Stanley Cup Final.
When all was said and done the two teams combined for 38 shots, 32 blocked shots and 32 hits during overtime, totals not usually seen when a game stretches beyond regulation and a lot of the players’ energy is already sapped.
“When you’re in the third overtime, and you’re seeing some of the hits that are being thrown there, that says a lot about teams wanting to play physical and wear the other team down,” Crosby said.
“Overtime a lot of times is not real run-and-gun,” Mark Eaton said. “It’s more conservative and cautious play. Both teams had quite a few opportunities.”
Crosby felt that Ottawa had the better of those chances during the first overtime and even seven or eight minutes into the second, including an apparent Nick Foligno goal 2:05 into period four which was negated when the referees ruled Foligno used a direct kicking motion to knock a Jason Spezza rebound behind Fleury.
Pittsburgh’s best scoring chance came at the 15:07 mark of the second overtime when Evgeni Malkin
’s turnaround shot from the slot beat Senators goaltender Pascal Leclaire, but clanged off the goal post to his right.
“I think the first overtime they generated a little bit more but the second one we did a real job after the first seven or eight minutes,” Crosby said. “We had a couple real good chances. A lot happened with penalties, chances, posts.”
Ah, yes, the penalties.
Both teams put their penalty killing units to the test in the first overtime, with Pittsburgh having to come up with key kills on two occasions compared to one for the Senators. Each team’s PKers answered the call, with a little help from the goaltenders, who were sensational during all three extra sessions.
Leclaire, who was making his first career postseason start, saw and denied 17 shots during the overtimes, with several of those quality chances, while Fleury was pelted with 21 shots at the opposite end, 20 of which he turned away.
Ottawa also made it tough on the Penguins, who attempted 125 shots, by blocking an astounding 46 shots, including 11 by defenseman Anton Volchenkov alone.
“There were some very good chances in overtime that their defensemen were blocking and their goaltender played very well tonight,” Bylsma said. “You have to keep firing at the guy and looking for opportunities, rebounds to pounce on. That’s something that we thought we’d have to get is a rebound goal to score because they were blocking a lot.”
As great as the quality scoring chances, bone-jarring hits and bodies being sacrificed were to watch, ultimately this game is going to be remembered for the bounce (which is how these games always seem to end) which kept Ottawa’s season alive for at least two more days.
“Some nights it’s not going to go the way we want it to but we battled back in the game,” Letang said. “It was just a question of managing the puck at the end.”
“Everyone is playing tight and you are not getting a whole lot,” Cooke said. “We did get some chances in overtime but they just didn’t get into the back of the net. … You have to stay with it. You are going to have your ups and downs in a game and in a series.”