The Ottawa Senators are the darlings of the NHL. That fact is completely unexpected but not wholly unwelcomed, and now it simply can't be denied. At least not after the Senators mounted a stunning comeback on Tuesday that both kept the Penguins from clinching and kept their season alive.
Ottawa needed a win. Badly. Otherwise, their season was in peril.
They couldn't have shot themselves in the foot any more viciously, either. Sidney Crosby and company tore them apart in the first period. Crosby sprung out of the gates with a ton of tricks up his sleeve, and the Senators had no answer for him. But if there's one trait that has defined the Senators over the last month, it's resiliency. When Craig Anderson and Robin Lehner went down with injuries, Andrew Hammond stepped up and took the league by storm. No lead has been too insurmountable, and no setback has been too powerful to push past. None of that makes too much sense considering how mediocre Ottawa had been for most of the season, but they found it at the right time.
So it makes sense that after getting down 3-1 in the third period on Tuesday, the Senators scratched and clawed their way to a tie game with just over a minute left in regulation. At that point they had regained the momentum they'd collected over the last few weeks. The snowball was back rolling down the mountain, and it was only a matter of time until Mark Stone scored the game-winner in overtime.
If the Senators somehow complete the fairy tale and make the playoffs, there's a good chance their star burns out quickly in the first couple of rounds. But you have to imagine even getting this far is enough of a gift for their fanbase, who expected nothing more than mediocrity from them this season. And for the rest of the league, watching this late-season surge has been the cherry on top of a thrilling final few weeks of the season.
Unless you're a Penguins or Red Wings fan, of course.
Detroit Red Wings 3, Carolina Hurricanes 2
Ottawa Senators 4, Pittsburgh Penguins 3 (OT)
3 Things We Learned
1. Tuesday lived up to the hype.
Nine games involved major playoff implications, so you knew going into the evening that you were in for a treat. The league didn't disappoint. The Senators' win was amazing. The Islanders' comeback/collapse (more on that in a second) was ridiculous. Detroit, Los Angeles and Calgary all made their fans sweat against some lowly teams. Even the Devils found a way to make the Rangers' important win interesting. The final stretch of the regular season is culminating in a massively entertaining way.
2. The Rangers won the trophy they don't care about.
I mean, does anyone ever care about winning the Presidents' Trophy? If you're in a position to win that sort of award (given to the team with the most regular season points) then your sights are already set on the Stanley Cup. In the Rangers' favor, of course, is the fact that the last time they won it (in '93-'94) they also took home Lord Stanley's prize. And of all the teams who have clinched, only the Rangers look like a safe pick to go all the way.
Los Angeles lost ground in a big way by losing to Edmonton while Calgary defeated Arizona. Pittsburgh obviously blew their chance to stop their free fall and make the playoffs. But the strangest loss belonged to the Islanders, who had a chance to clinch with a win in Philadelphia. Instead, they went down 4-1, and then mounted a dramatic comeback only to lose the game with 2.1 seconds left. We're still trying to figure out how that third period unfolded the way it did.
Without question, it's the Senators' late comeback to win the game. The highlight, of course, was Mark Stone's overtime winner.
Stat of the Night
This isn't really a stat as much as it is a fact, but it's important.
Because the Kings lost to Edmonton on Tuesday, if they lose in any fashion to Calgary on Thursday then they'll be eliminated.
The defending champions could miss the playoffs because of the Oilers and Flames. Let that sink in, and then try to imagine yourself knowing that back in October.
Post to Post
- Ryan Reaves made a questionable hit against the Jets.
Honk ZetterbonkHenrik Zetterberg snapped his slump in the prettiest of ways.