Craig Anderson stopped 45 shots and Mike Hoffman scored the tiebreaking goal in the third period to lead the Ottawa Senators over the Pittsburgh Penguins 2-1 Tuesday night, forcing Game 7 in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Game 7’s have not been kind to the Senators. Ottawa is 0-5 in Game 7’s and 0-4 on the road. But Pittsburgh is 9-7 in Game 7’s and 3-7 at home.
Pittsburgh goes into Thursday night’s game 7 as the heavy favorite, but don’t count out the resilient Senators. If they maintain their style, get another big performance from goalie Craig Anderson and win the special teams battle, they can beat the Penguins and advance to the Stanley Cup Final.
Maintain their style.
Yes, in other words, play “boring” hockey.
Head coach Guy Boucher was hired a year ago after Ottawa missed the playoffs with a 2.94 team goals-against average. Ottawa’s goals-against average dropped significantly to 2.56 this season, and the Senators are one win from claiming the Eastern Conference title.
Boucher wants his team to clog the neutral zone, smother the Penguins when they are in the defensive zone, remain patient and bury their limited number of scoring chances.
The Senators style has allowed them to stay in games without sacrificing offense.
Another big performance by Craig Anderson.
If not for Anderson, the Senators wouldn’t have even been in the game going into the third period of Game 6. Despite being outshot 23-10 in the second period and 46-30 overall, Ottawa was tied 1-1 with the Penguins after finally scoring on the power play.
Anderson was coming off a couple of poor performances, including Sunday, when he was pulled after giving up four goals in Ottawa’s 7-0 loss in Game 5 at Pittsburgh.
“The moment I got yanked in that game, it’s gone,” Anderson said. “You can’t change what happened in the past. So from that moment on, you have to look forward and get ready for the next one. So as soon as that happens and you leave the rink, you put it behind you.”
“You know, as far as tonight (Game 6), you just try to stay in the moment as best you can and focus on the baby steps,” Anderson said. “One shot at a time and the big picture takes care of itself when you worry about the details.”
Pittsburgh did everything right offensively in Game 6, but they couldn’t beat Anderson. The Senators look for that to continue in Game 7.
Better special teams play.
The Senators scored a power-play goal for the first time in 11 games in Game 6. They stopped the Penguins on three power play opportunities, holding them without a power-play goal for the first time since Game 3.
Ottawa has had trouble gaining the zone cleanly with the man advantage, but all that changed in Game 6. Bobby Ryan‘s power play one-timer broke a ten game, 0-29 power play streak by the Senators.
Ottawa had to kill off two Penguins power plays in the first period to keep the game scoreless. They accomplished this by playing as a team in front of Anderson despite allowing four power-play goals on five chances in the last two games including three on three chances in Game 5.
“The puck was on our stick, we got clears, had some big blocks,” Anderson said. “I thought we tied up sticks better in front than we did in the last game.”
Ottawa stymied Pittsburgh’s zone entries by clogging the neutral zone and smothered them in the defensive zone. If they remain sound in their positioning, they will win the special teams battle.
“We weren’t running around,” defenseman Marc Methot said. “We were in our spots, in the lane, and when you’re in those shooting lanes and discouraging them from taking those shots, you’re doing yourselves a huge favor. We just have to keep doing that and we can’t change our game going into their building.”
Game 7 is Thursday night in Pittsburgh, with the winner advancing to take on the Nashville Predators in the Stanley Cup Finals.
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