Hoffman scores winner; Sens stave off elimination
OTTAWA — The Ottawa Senators are still alive.
Mike Hoffman scored the goahead goal early in the third period of Game 6 as the Sens brushed off elimination with a 2-1 win on Tuesday and sent the National Hockey League’s Eastern Conference final to a decisive Game 7 in Pittsburgh.
Ottawa was facing elimination for the first time in the playoffs.
Bobby Ryan also scored a rare power-play goal for Ottawa and Craig Anderson made 44 saves.
Matt Murray gave up a pair on 30 shots and Evgeni Malkin mustered the lone goal for the Penguins, who will shoot for their second straight Stanley Cup final appearance once more Thursday.
The Sens managed to quickly forget a 7-0 pounding two days earlier in Game 5, stave off the end of their season and land one more shot at a first Stanley Cup final appearance in 10 years.
“You can see it as an elimination game, or you can see it as an opportunity, and we know what we choose,” head coach Guy Boucher said before the game.
Ottawa was primarily looking for a return to structure in Game 6, beginning with a smoother start — which they got.
Notable in a scoreless first frame were two effective penalty kills, one of which saw Viktor Stalberg get the best opportunity short-handed.
Pittsburgh had four shots with the man advantage, but Anderson stopped them all. The 35-year-old struggled through Games 4 and 5 — yielding seven goals — but it was evident early that he had his game back. He stopped Nick Bonino off a rebound in transition, Scott Wilson off a deflected Phil Kessel shot and Bonino again when Kyle Turris gave the puck away.
Sharp, too, was Murray, the 22year-old who replaced Marc-André Fleury after Game 3. He made maybe his finest save of the first on Derick Brassard, who found an open lane down the middle of the ice following a feed from Ryan.
The opening 20 minutes looked more in line with what Boucher had in mind. He thought his team got sucked into run-and-gun hockey with the Pens in the blowout loss and required a return to the club’s well-established defensive brand.
Mike Hoffman (68) of the Sens celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal against Pittsburgh in the third period in Ottawa on Tuesday night.