For starters, the Senators gave up more goals than they scored this season. "People are going to say what they're going to say and be on me for it for a long time", Ryan said of scoring just 25 points in 62 regular-season games. They overcame back-to-back losses in Games 3 and 4 to win Games 5 and 6.
Penguins fans watching on the big screen outside PPG Paints Arena expressed disappointment, but stressed that everything could turn around in Game 2.
Now is not the time to stop playing the underdog card when it so clearly has worked for the Senators.
The Ottawa Senators dominated Boston then rallied by the New York Rangers on the legs of seemingly tireless defenseman Erik Karlsson, the inspirational play of goaltender Craig Anderson and a neutral zone trap created to frustrate and suffocate opponents in equal measure.
Maybe winning two rounds does buy a team more belief currency, even when it's staring down its biggest challenge yet. "They came out and took it to us". In these playoffs, he's been a revelation with 11 points in 13 games so far.
The Senators didn't get many scoring chances in the first period. Because of the impending salary-cap crunch and new contracts needed for center Evgeny Kuznetsov, winger Andre Burakovsky and defensemen Dmitry Orlov and Nate Schmidt, MacLellan made it no secret before the 2015-16 season he saw this as a two-year window. "I think it was a complete restart".
In both of those years, it at least felt as if Ottawa belonged deep in the playoffs. "We have to make sure we handle the pressure we have in the right way".
Karlsson would take on more minutes, of course.
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That ruined goalie Craig Anderson's shot at his second shutout of the playoffs. "I like our chances".
As for the hamstring injury, it occurred late in Game 3 of the Pittsburgh series.
Bobby Ryan lifted the Sens over the Pens in Game 1.
Ottawa aims to clog the neutral zone, something Sullivan believes his team handled well in the opening game. It appears the National Hockey League record for OT games is set to fall this season - with nearly a full two rounds to go, we're only three OT games shy of the record.
If the first 10 minutes are pivotal, the Senators were able to survive it. Ovechkin then scored in Game 5, but was otherwise held to just three assists in the series.
Mentally, they're also dealing with the way it went down and the hard transition to a summer of changes. The Senators did a nice job of not allowing the Penguins' stars to get loose and they were visibly frustrated. They won a Cup past year, so they've gone the distance and they probably had a lot of good play, and they've had some good fortune, too. Players spoke of feeling like they had "nothing to lose" when they fell into a three-games-to-one series hole and pundits prematurely considered their postseason run over. Ottawa has Karlsson, but it doesn't have anyone up front to match Crosby, Malkin and Kessel in terms of skill, talent and experience.
Nicklas Backstrom talked about his newfound vocal leadership role, saying, "at this point, I don't really care anymore" about holding back when the time might call for him to give his peace. They know they're not the favorites in this series.
But they knew changes were coming. "We're going to have to play at the level we're capable of".
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