“One capital city down, one to go.” The Pittsburgh Penguins were nothing if not confident, @Penguins sending that cocky little tweet out earlier in the day.
However, Saturday night in at PPG Paints Arena, it was the plucky Ottawa Senators who took a 2-1 victory on Bobby Ryan’s winning goal at 4:59 of the first extra period. “I was kind of lucky the puck found me,” Ryan said. “I got fortunate that it found the back of the net.”
Ryan’s goal was a thing of beauty in a game with rare sparkles. He took a pass from Jean-Gabriel Pageau, carried the puck down the right side and cut hard to the net, faked a shot, shifted to the backhand and threw the puck past startled Pittsburgh goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury.
The Senators opened the scoring in the first when, at the 14:32 mark, Pageau, the hometown hero of the series win over the Rangers, was able to steal a puck and Ryan took it in behind the Pittsburgh net. Ryan sent a back pass to Pageau, reversing what seemed the natural flow of the play. Pageau was ready and snapped the puck in past Fleury for his eighth goal of the postseason. “If we mismanage the puck,” Pittsburgh centre Nick Bonino said, “they’re going to make you pay.”
As is Ottawa’s custom, once they gain even a one-goal lead, they try to wrap the game in duct tape – sealing off the neutral zone, chipping pucks out and away, dumping in and barely bothering to chase. Dull, but often effective, hockey. Finally, however, the Penguins caught a break. Late in the third period, Chris Kunitz took a shot from the left boards and Evgeni Malkin managed to get his stick on the shot and change its direction just enough to elude Anderson, sending the game into overtime.
Then came Ryan’s heroics.
Game 2 in this Eastern Conference final will be held in Pittsburgh Monday evening before shifting to Ottawa for Games 3 and 4.
Forget the Conn Smythe and Norris Trophy, Erik Karlsson wants a Stanley Cup
He is chasing his third Norris Trophy in the past four years.
That he is the best NHL defenceman still skating is indisputable – the other two Norris finalists, Victor Hedman of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Brent Burns of the San Jose Sharks, are out of the playoffs – yet he might, in another life, have been challenging for the Vezina Trophy that goes to the top goaltender.
While it is true that this once one-way player has so transformed his game that he was second in the league in blocked shots this year, it is also true that he once dreamed of doing nothing but blocking shots.
Just so he could wear one of those fancy goalie masks.
Erik Karlsson was six years old when his father, Jonas, dissuaded him of that ambition. The father, himself a fine player and then a coach in little Landsbro, Sweden, let the kid put on the big pads … and then blasted a slap-shot at him. The kid started to bawl and decided immediately that he would play defence, just like his dad.
He chose a new idol in Nicklas Lidstrom, the former Detroit Red Wings defenceman who racked up seven Norris Trophies before retiring. Karlsson has two, perhaps soon three – some believe he should have won last year as well, when he lost to Drew Doughty of the Los Angeles Kings – and, at 26, has several prime years left to chase Lidstrom. - Roy MacGregor