Yes, it did feel like he waited two years and six days for this moment.
“That’s a lo-ong time,” the 32-year-old said, minutes after Ottawa’s come-from-behind overtime win on Saturday afternoon, levelling their first-round series with Boston at one game apiece. “Those two-on-twos after practice don’t feel as good as that.”
No, they don’t. And if you saw MacArthur celebrate his goal — the first of four for Ottawa on Saturday in a 4-3 win that means the Senators don’t head to Boston in a two-game hole — you could tell.
It was a heck of a game, even if the first period was slow and scoreless. In the third, Ottawa rallied back from a 3-1 deficit, they forced overtime, and veteran defenceman Dion Phaneuf played the hero, labelling a one-timer past Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask.
But it was MacArthur who was the story of the night. He missed nearly two entire seasons due to concussion symptoms. Saturday’s goal, his fifth ever in the playoffs, his first ever in the post-season for Ottawa, is the biggest of his career.
“Just because of the length of time it took to get that one,” he said. “Definitely never gonna take my last goal for granted, that’s for sure.”
In the second period, down 1-0, Ottawa was on the power play when MacArthur got a Bobby Ryan pass right in front. MacArthur dropped to one knee and put a wrist shot top shelf to tie the game up.
“Perfect shot,” Phaneuf said. “What a release.”
Then MacArthur skated toward centre and he pumped both arms up, twice, while he yelled, and more than 18,000 people stood and waved their white rally towels and yelled right along with him.
Teammates let MacArthur enjoy the moment for a couple seconds before the hugs came. Then MacArthur looked at Ryan and said “Yeah, baby!” The cheers from the crowd were still going full tilt while he was sitting on the bench.
As coach Guy Boucher put it, “When he raises his arms, I think the whole city did at the same time.”
Boucher had goosebumps on the bench, then. “Seeing everything it took for him to come back is one thing, and then seeing him play that good is another, but to actually get a goal in the playoffs,” he said.
“One of the most special moments I’ve lived as a coach, because it’s everybody in the rink and the players and the organization celebrating something that must have been very, very tough to live all year. And it comes at a perfect time.”
What a moment.
And then, what an ending.
The Bruins took a 3-1 lead into the second on goals from Tim Schaller — off a Craig Anderson giveaway — and a power-play tip from Patrice Bergeron. “I think we realized that the first game, we kind of gave away, and again we were about to give this one away,” said captain, Erik Karlsson.
But in the third, defenceman Chris Wideman sent a weak shot through traffic past Rask to pull the Senators within a goal. It got the crowd right back into this one, towels-a-waving, chanting “Let’s Go Sens!”
And then with 7:48 left, Derick Brassard ripped a one-timer into a near-wide-open net after getting perhaps the prettiest pass of the playoffs from Karlsson.
“You just sit back and go, ‘Wow, I could never do that,’” MacArthur said of that pass from his captain.
Brassard jump-hugged Karlsson after that play, and all five Senators players celebrated with a pile-on, as though they’d won the game, though that didn’t come until later.
Phaneuf struck just under two minutes into overtime, getting as much as he could on a one-timer from the point to send this crowd into a tizzy yet again.
And so, MacArthur wasn’t alone in tallying a career goal Saturday afternoon.
“It’s the biggest one that I’ve scored,” said a grinning Phaneuf, wearing a ball cap and dry-fit gear and a pair of Sens red flip flops. “It feels great to do it here, in front of our fans. What a — just incredible. I’ve played a long time, and my first overtime winner, it feels great.”
Phaneuf has known MacArthur a long time, back to their days playing junior hockey against one another, and even before that, growing up in Alberta. Phaneuf is from Edmonton, while MacArthur is from Lloydminster.
“He’s one of my best friends in the game, and to see what he went through to find a way to come back and continue to push, continue to stay in shape, and to continue to work towards coming and helping our team — just an incredible story,” Phaneuf said. “You could see our whole building, our fans were behind him and I think the whole city is.”
MacArthur, of course, hopes it’s the first of many. On an off-day following the team’s 2-1 loss in Game 1, MacArthur explained Ottawa’s lack of offence like they were “banging the ketchup bottle here, waiting for it too ooze out.”
“Love to get one,” he’d said. “That would help.”
It sure did. His parents flew down for the game, and his wife, two kids, and a few friends were in the crowd, too.
“You know everyone wanted me to get that one,” MacArthur said, of the reaction to his goal. “That’s what it felt like. The whole city’s kinda been having to listen to me the last couple years, trying to make comebacks.
“To get that ovation was just…” he said, before trailing off.
“It’ll probably be the best moment I have in hockey.”