|Senators forward Nick Foligno and Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury look on as Matt Carkner's shot settles into the back of the net, giving Ottawa a 4-3 victory in triple overtime Thursday night at Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh. It was the longest game in Senators history and kept them alive for a Game 6 Saturday night at Scotiabank Place (Getty Images).
For another day, at least, they'll enjoy being the talk of the hockey world.
But soon enough, the Ottawa Senators know it'll be time to put the thrill and the excitement of Thursday's 4-3 triple overtime marathon victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins behind them and carry forward with the challenge still in front of them.
"Our situation hasn’t really changed that much from last night," said goaltender Pascal Leclaire, whose 56-save performance at Mellon Arena helped keep the Senators alive in their Eastern Conference quarter-final series with the defending Stanley Cup champions. "We’ve still got to win to stay alive and that’s our main focus right now."
Indeed, as heroic as this team performed on Thursday night, the reality of its situation remains the same. With the Penguins still holding a 3-2 edge in the best-of-seven series, the Senators will still be in a must-win position when Game 6 is played before what figures to be another loud sellout throng at Scotiabank Place on Saturday night (7 p.m., CBC, Team 1200).
"We've just got to go out and fight for our lives again," said Matt Carkner
, the big blueliner whose deflected shot found the back of the net at 7:06 of the third overtime period, ending the longest game in modern Senators franchise history.
"I was embracing it there last night. I had a really great time with it and now it's time to move on. We've got to get going and get ready for (Saturday) night."
"To be honest, it was a pretty quiet bus ride back to the airport and it was a pretty subdued plane ride. I think the guys were tired, first of all, but I think they understand that game is over and done with and now they’ve got to refocus for tomorrow night and that’s what (today's) meeting was all about." - Cory Clouston
Today, however, was a much-deserved day of rest and a time for reflection upon one of the most remarkable games any of them had ever played. Even Matt Cullen, a man with a hockey resume that includes a dramatic Stanley Cup run with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2005-06, had never before been a part of anything so epic. He logged a career-high 39:32 of ice time in the victory.
"It’s a big win," said Cullen. "Time will tell where it ranks. If we can come back and win this series, it’ll be way up there. But (how) the rest of the series plays out will determine how big of a game it truly was. But to win that game at the moment we did shows a lot about this team and, hopefully, it can be enough to turn things around and flip this thing over."
Leclaire has played in a world junior hockey championship final and the Memorial Cup, but said he's never experienced anything like Thursday's marathon at the Igloo. And it was his first career National Hockey League playoff start to boot.
"It’s definitely the most exciting hockey game I’ve ever been a part of," said the affable 27-year-old native of Repentigny, Que. "You don’t play hockey to play exhibition games. You want to be a part of those nights and it was fun. My family and friends were all up until (1 a.m.) last night and everybody’s complaining because they’re tired today. But you want to be a part of that. It’s fun, it’s playoff hockey and it’s cool."
Now they've got a chance to square the series on home ice Saturday night and that was the message during a team meeting held this earlier today — not that any sort of reminder was really necessary. Even in the wake of such a huge triumph in Game 5, there was little time taken for celebration.
"To be honest, it was a pretty quiet bus ride back to the airport and it was a pretty subdued plane ride," said Senators head coach Cory Clouston. "I think the guys were tired, first of all, but I think they understand that game is over and done with and now they’ve got to refocus for tomorrow night and that’s what (today's) meeting was all about."
There is also the matter of recovery from playing the equivalent of nearly two games on Thursday evening. But that's an issue for both sides in a series that is beginning to turn into a war of attrition. The Senators hope to push that right to the limit, and a winner-take-all Game 7 on Tuesday in Pittsburgh.
"It’s a big win. Time will tell where it ranks. If we can come back and win this series, it’ll be way up there. But (how) the rest of the series plays out will determine how big of a game it truly was. But to win that game at the moment we did shows a lot about this team and, hopefully, it can be enough to turn things around and flip this thing over." - Matt Cullen
"You're tired," admitted Peter Regin
, the rookie centre who produced the tying goal in the third period that sent the game to overtime. "It's a long game. It's almost two games. You can feel it in your body but at the same time, we feel good about ourselves and we're looking forward to (Saturday) ... we're happy we're still in the race."
Added Clouston: "Hopefully, we'll be good to go as much with our minds and our emotions as well as our bodies because to me, that's what it's all about right now. Physically, both teams will be tired, but we've got to have our emotions up."
Funny, too, how a victory can go a long way toward easing everyone's fatigue.
"You don't come in today feeling horrible," said Cullen. "You're a little more tired than usual but nothing crazy ... It is good to get some rest and let the legs recover. I don't think that skating would (have been) very wise on a day like today.
"You let the body heal, you get in and do a little treatment or whatever you need to do and it's surprising how good you feel."Around the boards
Sens Army fans were caught up in the excitement of the triple-overtime triumph as well. Some 3,000 tickets were available for Saturday's game late last night but that number had dwindled to fewer than 50 earlier this afternoon, assuring another crowd of 20,000-plus at Scotiabank Place for Game 6 ... Senators rookie defenceman Erik Karlsson
logged an astounding 40:38 of ice time in Game 5, second only to the 44:13 turned in by Penguins blueliner Sergei Gonchar
... Other impressive Sens stats: Defenceman Anton Volchenkov recorded 11 blocked shots and centre Mike Fisher chalked up 10 hits.