The Ottawa Senators remarkable ride has finally come to an end.
Sidney Crosby set up Chris Kunitz for the double overtime winner and his second goal of the night as the Pittsburgh Penguins ended the Sens season 3-2 in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final.
“It’s one of those games where when the stakes are this high, anything can happen,” said Crosby. “It’s relief and excitement to know you’re moving on and you’re going to be playing in the Stanley Cup final.”
Ottawa twice rallied in pursuit of a first Stanley Cup final appearance in 10 years, ultimately falling just short against the defending champs while dropping to 0-6 in Game 7s.
Erik Karlsson assisted on goals from Mark Stone and Ryan Dzingel. Craig Anderson was terrific with 39 saves.
“We kept putting pucks on him and we trusted that eventually we’d find a way to put one in. He was incredible,” said Crosby of Anderson. “Some of those saves he was making and some of the ones that seem to lay there and we couldn’t get, we had to work for it.”
Justin Schultz also scored for the Penguins and Matt Murray came up with 27 stops. Pittsburgh’s pursuit of a second straight Cup begins Monday night against Nashville.
The loss ends a storybook ride for Ottawa few could have anticipated before the season. The Sens were hardly a sure thing to even make the playoffs, let alone win two rounds and take the defending Stanley Cup champions to seven games.
Mario Lemieux picked up the Prince of Wales Trophy in 1991 and 1992. Sidney Crosby did it in 2009, 2016 and 2017.
Ottawa defied odds all year by embracing the ways of first-year coach Guy Boucher. That meant a defence-first approach which often saw the Sens trying to win games 1-0 or 2-1. It was that thin margin for error which made the club such an unlikely candidate to go deep in the playoffs and come just shy of its first final in 10 years.
Their run was fuelled in large part by Karlsson. While slowing down in the conference…