Game 7s are always hard to win. They become even harder when you’re facing the reigning Stanley Cup winners. It becomes even harder when you’re in their rink, and in overtime, but that’s the situation the Ottawa Senators put themselves in tonight. The pressure was too great though, and they lost in the second overtime.
Game 7s are also always very intense. The determination of every player shines through during these games. Every player is fighting to play in one more series before their series ends. Game 7s, and especially overtime in Game 7, are what every player dreams of being a part of. For Chris Kunitz, the dream of scoring the game winner came true. Nine minutes into second overtime, he put one behind Craig Anderson to win it for the Penguins.
This game marked only the first time a conference finals, Game Seven 7, game has gone past first overtime. The last time was in 1994, when the New York Rangers beat the New Jersey Devils 2-1 on a goal by Stephane Matteau
Pittsburgh Penguins Win Game 7; Advance to Stanley Cup Final
Craig Anderson was the MVP of the game yet again, despite losing. The 36-year-old goaltender faced 49 shots, and saved 46 of them. The game was filled with scrums in front of the net, and when the puck wasn’t being fought for in front of the net the Penguins were firing it at Anderson.
Matt Murray also had a stunning game, saving 27 shots. The Penguins were able to rely on Murray all game, and he came up with a handful of saves that kept the Penguins alive. He turned 23 today, and his hard work was able to earn him a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals for the second time in two seasons. After the game he was asked what he was thinking. Murray replied that he just wanted to keep the team in the game and let the forwards work their magic.
Each team had six defenseman on their bench. Each team also relied heavily on their D, although in somewhat different ways.
Ottawa’s defense was busy all night shutting down Pittsburgh’s offense. Most of the game was spent in the Senators zone, from the opening face-off. Ottawa pressured Pittsburgh well during the first period, making them bobble passes and forcing the puck back into the neutral zone. The Penguins became increasingly more comfortable though. To compensate, the Senators had a winger stay high in the zone when they were in the offensive zone. This helped cut down any chance for Pittsburgh to get an odd man rush. It didn’t work 100 percent of the time though, and a good play by Connor Sheary gave the Penguins a two-on-one. After a few back-to-back passes, Kunitz was able to put it behind Anderson to open up the scoring.
Erik Karlsson was also again a threat on the Senators. Karlsson was able to shovel the puck out of the team’s zone multiple times, when the pressure was tough. The star defenseman was also involved in almost every offensive play the Senators had. He totalled just under 40 minutes of ice time. The Senators rotated their defense constantly to keep him on the ice. The Senators responded to Kunitz’s first goal in only 20 seconds; after Karlsson made a great pass to Mark Stone who netted it.
The Penguins defense was also a major role in their win. Trevor Daley was a perfect example of this. Playing in only his second game this post-season, he would constantly pinch at the offensive blue line to keep the puck in, and would skate the puck in when he found open ice. While he didn’t get any points, he single-handedly applied a lot pressure on Ottawa.
Justin Schultz was also a big name this game. With a goal and an assist, it was almost impossible to tell he was just returning from an upper body injury received in Game 2. He did have a few slip ups early in the game. He also claimed before the game that he wasn’t shooting as well as he could. Once he settled in, he was a great force in the offensive zone. 11 minutes into the third period, Schultz grabbed hold of the lead with a power play goal. He lined up a shot from the blue line. The shot whizzed past Anderson, who was being screened by Kunitz.
It was clear both teams wanted to win this game. The game was filled with physicality and high speed plays. The Penguins had a whopping 44 hits in the game. Most of these hits came when the Senators were able to break into the Pens zone. They were able to shutdown the Sens and regain the puck. Generally the Penguins broke out of the zone with ease.
Combined, the two teams had a total of eight players play more than half an hour this game. Surprisingly, Sidney Crosby wasn’t one of these players. Even players who didn’t even hit ten minutes of ice time came up big for both teams. Ryan Dzingel, who had eight minutes on the ice, scored the goal that sent the game into overtime. After a battle in front of the net, Dzingel found the loose puck and buried it before being sat for most of the remaining time.
Dion Phaneuf, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Stone, and Phil Kessel were all players who were notably hurt on the ice during this game. Stone was the only one to even go back to the locker room though, but didn’t miss a shift. All four players played the whole game, and all four had at least 24 minutes of ice time.
In the first period, Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan was asked what he thought was a key to winning the game. He replied that he felt the team was at their best when they rotated all four lines. This proved true throughout the entire game. They had eight forwards who played at least 20 minutes in the game. Jake Guentzel received the lowest amount of ice time, with 13 minutes and 59 seconds. In comparison, Ottawa had five forwards with at least 20 minutes of ice time. Dzingel and Chris Kelly were also held to under ten minutes of ice time. Kelly only received about three minutes.
Pittsburgh was on their heels during the first period and a half. They eventually gained their footing and dominated the game, though. The Penguins were able to set up good chances in the offensive zone. This was evident in the first overtime, when they had countless close calls, including a shot from Kessel that hit the post and rolled across the crossbar. With how many unlucky bounces they got, it was only a matter of time before they capitalized on one of their chances. That moment came when Kunitz perfectly placed a shot above Anderson’s shoulder. The shot gave Kunitz his second goal of the game, and of the postseason, and sent the Penguins to their second Stanley Cup Final in two years. They’ll host the Nashville Predators on Monday.