BOSTON – Bobby Ryan had on his shin pads and skates, but no hockey pants, and he was standing in the hallway outside the visitor’s dressing room at TD Garden when goalie Craig Anderson walked by and smacked him on the butt, then turned around and grinned.
Yes, the Ottawa Senators were feeling pretty good Monday night in Boston, even if almost everybody else wasn’t.
Minutes earlier, Ryan had hammered home an overtime winner on a power play that came on account of a questionable call, which led to a 4-3 win for the Senators, giving them a 2-1 lead in this first-round series.
“First playoff [overtime winner] for me, so incredible just to get up and see the guys running at you full steam,” Ryan said, smiling. “Just incredible.”
It really was, and not just the winning goal. Game 3 had everything.
It was a ridiculous 114-foot pass authored by (who else?) captain Erik Karlsson that turned into an assist on the first goal of the game. There was a three-goal lead. There was a blown three-goal lead. There were a lot of hits, some face-washes. Senators defenceman Dion Phaneuf and Boston Bruins winger David Backes had a close-talking conversation during play that lasted a good 20 seconds. The first half was all Senators. The second half was mostly Bruins.
And then there was that penalty call in overtime – on Ryan – that led to Ryan’s goal.
“Demoralizing and disappointing,” is how Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy classified the penalty. “There’s probably a lot more words, but they called it. So once they call it, it’s our job to kill it.”
Bruins centreman Riley Nash drew the penalty after exchanging shots with Ryan while they were both down on the ice. Nash caught Ryan in the face, and Ryan’s head snapped back.
“I think it was pretty selfish of me,” Nash said. “You can’t make that play, can’t put the refs in that position regardless of what happened before that.” He said Ryan “kind of embellished it,” but added, “it can’t happen. You’ve got to take that.”
Ryan didn’t expect a call on the play.
“We got on the fortunate end of one tonight,” he said. “We’ll take it. We got a little bit of a break, and we bailed ourselves out.”
They did. For the second time in a row, Ottawa scored the big one in extra time, this time with a little help from the refs. It was yet another swing in a game full of them, the biggest one coming when the Bruins scored three straight in less than eight minutes.
As Ryan said of the momentum shifts in Game 3: “You can actually feel the ice tilt.”
For the first time in this series, a team scored in the first period, and Ottawa did so not once, but twice, silencing (just for a bit) this sold out crowd of 17,565.
It started when Karlsson skated around his own net, stepped just over the goal-line, then floated an airborne pass to the Bruins blue-line – about 114 feet – that landed right on the stick of winger Mike Hoffman, who made a move on the ensuing breakaway and then slid the puck past Tuukka Rask for his first goal of these playoffs.
The pass was straight up unbelievable, and it was Karlsson’s first of two assists on the night.
Thirty-five seconds after Hoffman struck, Karlsson quarterbacked another one, this time keeping the puck in and making a pass to Viktor Stalberg down low, which was followed by a pass to Ryan and another to an open Derick Brassard in front. Just like that, it was 2-0 Ottawa.
“That’s probably the best 20 minutes I’ve seen all year from us,” said Hoffman.
TD Garden had been raucous, but for a few moments there, after all that, it felt more like a library. On a Bruins power play later in the first period, the team that had the NHL’s seventh-best percentage with the man advantage (21.7) could get nothing going, not even a single shot. And so the fans booed.
By the end of the first, shots were 10-3, Ottawa.
Hoffman scored his second of the game a little under four minutes into the second, on the power play, when he one-timed a Chris Wideman pass and sent a laser from the point, off the post, and in.
You could hear a pin drop at the Garden, after that.
But less than three minutes later, it got really loud. This is when the ice tilted.
Then came the “Let’s go Bru-ins!” chants, and the yellow towels were flung around.
“That’s momentum,” said Anderson. “We use the crowd in our building in our favour when we made it close…I think that happened tonight, too.”
Forty-two seconds after the Acciari goal, the noise in the Garden hit a fever pitch. On a dump-in that bounced around just inside Ottawa’s blue-line, Ryan waited for the bouncing puck and it bounced right over his stick. Ryan lost his stick and both gloves trying to block a charging Backes, and Backes had Ryan’s stick on his back when he put one past Anderson to bring the Bruins within one.
Boston had scored two goals on just six shots. It was like they’d just woken up: They started hitting everything. And then they made good on a power play chance, just after a two-man advantage had expired, when winger David Pastrnak wired a one-timer past Anderson.
Pastrnak skated toward the boards, put a hand around his ear a la ‘I can’t hear you!’ – even though the crowd was really loud – and the fans continued to go bananas.
“They pushed back, give them credit,” said Anderson. “We don’t give them a whole lot, but then when we do, it seems to be the breakdown.”
It does. The Bruins scored three times on nine shots. And so it had been 3-0, Ottawa, and now it was 3-3, heading into the third.
Ryan says it was pretty calm in the Senators dressing room after the second. “There was a sense that we didn’t feel like we let them get away,” he said. “Our captain spoke, the right guy said the right message. We went out and we faced adversity whether it was on the ice or off the ice all year long in a lot of different situations, and we responded every time.”
Boston had the balance of chances in the third, and Anderson made a massive save on David Krejci, who returned to the lineup for Game 3.
“He had some incredible ones down the stretch,” Ryan said, which he expected from Anderson, considering a pretty soft one that snuck past him to make it 3-1. “He’s a guy that, that doesn’t do anything but anger him,” Ryan said. “When he lets one in like that you know he’s gonna come back strong.”
Ottawa had the momentum in overtime, then came the penalty, then came the goal – from Karlsson to Kyle Turris to Ryan to the back of the net – 5:43 into that extra frame.
Ryan didn’t notice, but the rink got really quiet after he scored that one.
As he pointed out, with a smile: “It was loud where I was with all the guys around me.”