The Pittsburgh Penguins played the type of hockey Dan Bylsma preached for over five hours on Thursday night. They attempted close to 130 shots on the night. It all looked too perfect as who else but Sidney Crosby, scored a goal from his backside to put the Penguins ahead halfway through the third.
But there was no quitting in the squad from Ottawa. They didn't care if they had to play extra hockey. They didn't care if they were on the ice until midnight. They weren't going anywhere - lose, and they are done until next October.
Former Penguin farmhand Matt Carkner made sure they saw another day with a shot that barely eluded Marc-Andre Fleury in triple-overtime.
Heading back to Ottawa, the Senators were feeling pretty good about themselves. They had the momentum, they had a goaltender that finally played like the man they expected to get when they traded away Antoine Vermette, and more importantly, Game 6 was on home ice.
As the game began, it was obvious which team brought their "A" game, and it wasn't the defending Stanley Cup champions. The Senators were flying, hitting, and getting glorious opportunities. Five minutes into the game, they also did something that no home team had done in the series—score first.
It was Matt Cullen, scoring on a breakaway. No chance for Fleury to do much about that one, and the Senators had a much deserved lead. Ottawa and Cory Clouston weren't happy, however, and the men in red continued to engage in a full-scale blitz of the Pittsburgh net.
A sticky situation came up 13 minutes into the game.
Mike Rupp took a seemingly harmless shot on net that was stopped by Pascal Leclaire. Or was it? Further replays saw the puck, although airborne, was slightly across the goal line. But the war room in Toronto didn't feel like there was enough evidence to overturn the call on the ice of no goal, so Rupp was denied in his effort. Ottawa retained a 1-0 lead.
To begin the second period, the Senators third line swarmed around the net following a failed carry-over power play. Picking up a rebound, Chris Neil chipped in his third goal of the playoffs to give his team a two-goal advantage.
Enough for Clouston to begin trying to clog up the middle of the ice and collapsing in front of the net. His cause was further helped by his captain, as Alfredsson scored halfway through the period to make it 3-0. Nothing was going right for the Penguins. No momentum, no bounces, no luck. Would we have a Game 7 back in Pittsburgh?
Not if Matt Cooke had a say in the matter. The Penguins' "Sesame Street" Line got to work down low with Jordan Staal crashing the net, followed by partners in crime Cooke and Pascal Dupuis. A second chance opportunity for Cooke was not going to be denied as the Penguins finally broke through the wall that had been the Ottawa netminder.
Cooke then proceeded to do his best King Arthur impersonation, but instead of pulling the sword from the stone, he pulled his stick from the belly of the wounded beast Carkner in defiance of Ottawa's current dominance.
3-1. The Penguins had a reason to believe once more.
But no sooner did Cooke score than Ottawa came right back. More controversy. In Game 5, there were three plays that went to video review. Already in the second period, two plays were going to Toronto. This time, a goal scored by Ottawa that would have made it 4-1, and called a goal on the ice, was the second disallowed goal. The puck did not go in the net before the cage was knocked off its moorings.
The Cooke goal and disallowed goal seemed to give the Penguins a world of momentum. They weren't the team that led the postseason in hitting for nothing. Despite not finding a goal before the end of the second, Dan Bylsma felt a lot better going to the locker room this time even though he was down two goals.
We all know, a two-goal lead in hockey is the worst lead.
The Penguins continued their barrage into the final stanza and got on the power play after a crosscheck by Anton Volchenkov that flattened Kunitz in front of the net. An unlucky break for Ottawa, literally, as Leclaire's goal stick snapped in half, and Bill Guerin took advantage off a feed from Goligoski.
Cue the comeback. When you kick a door so many times, it's going to eventually break. The Penguins used this exact motto.
After a faceoff win, Mark Eaton took a bad angle shot from the wall, creating a juicy rebound that bounced right out to Matt Cooke. No mistakes by the Penguins alpha agitator, as it's a double for the Cookie Monster.
Both teams pushed for the winning goal as regulation time melted down, but to no avail. Overtime, again.
This time, only nine minutes in, as compared to nearly 50 two nights ago, Pascal Dupuis scored his first goal of the series to end the series. Couldn't have picked a better time, and it was a beautiful setup from Selke finalist Jordan Staal. All in the blink of an eye, Ottawa's season ended and the Penguins moved on. It was a fifth-straight series win on the road, dating back to last year.
Marc-Andre Fleury: 6. Made a couple fine saves, especially ones on Neil and Spezza in overtime, but was reduced to a spectator for most of the third period. Most importantly for the Penguins though, he didn't make any mistakes that cost the team.
Mark Eaton: 6.5. An active game. Picked up his first point of the series with a very alert play, just getting the puck on net to create a rebound on Cooke's second goal.
Alex Goligoski: 5.5. Less than stellar in his own end, but for once showed the poise of a true power play quarterback to set up Guerin. Faked the shot to freeze defenders, then made the pass all in one crisp stroke of intelligence. Again, however, needed to do a better job hitting the net when deciding to shoot.
Sergei Gonchar: 6.5. He's logged 75 minutes of ice time over the past two games, so if anyone could use a rest in the next few days, it's No. 55. He earned it completely, as he didn't have a negative plus/minus in any game of the series, but could have done a better job getting pucks through tonight.
Kris Letang: 4.5. Probably not the sharpest game of his career, but he won't care too much thanks to the team winning.
Jay McKee: 5. Didn't see much ice time (only 13:26) with some scattered penalty-killing work. Unusually made a bigger impact on the game with his hitting as opposed to shot blocking.
Brooks Orpik: 7. Really cranked up his physical game after the Penguins scored their first goal, delivering a game-high eight hits. Did his finest work defensively to keep the Spezza-Fisher combination quiet.
Craig Adams: 6. Nothing more, nothing less than what we've come to expect. A typical game from the fourth-line center.
Chris Conner: 6.5. Played in his first playoff game of the year, replacing ineffective Ruslan Fedotenko after being called up from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. Played a very energetic game and proved to be a handful for the Senators No. 5-6 defensemen down low.
Matt Cooke: 8. Scored twice, dished out a handful of hits, and also did a great job shorthanded. What more could you ask for out of a pest?
Sidney Crosby: 6. The first game of the entire series where Crosby was on the ice for a goal allowed—and he found himself in that position twice. Played less time than usual and looked tired at times after playing over 37 minutes a few nights ago. Should be well rested and ready to go for round two.
Pascal Dupuis: 8.5. Saved his best game for last. Had several magnificent scoring chances early in the game but was seemingly snake-bit. Picked up an assist on Cooke's first goal but nobody cares about that because he scored the series-winning goal.
Bill Guerin: 7 . Had the unenviable mark of being one of the Penguins to be on the ice all three times Ottawa scored. But washed out any bad taste by scoring on an absolute dart to give the Penguins belief in a comeback.
Chris Kunitz: 4.5. Fired pucks at will and threw his body around like a mad man, but still couldn't seem to find his groove in the game. Nearly cost the Penguins the game with an outrageous turnover in overtime.
Evgeni Malkin: 6. Didn't shoot the puck with a whole lot of conviction early in the game but very nearly scored on the power play. Still hasn't found his best game in these playoffs yet and is going to need to bring his level up as the stakes increase.
Alexei Ponikarovsky: 7. A very solid game by the Ukrainian. Made his presence felt both physically and as a big body in front of Leclaire. Missed on a perfect set-up but it was truly his only mistake of the evening.
Mike Rupp: 5. The only Penguin skater to play under 10 minutes. Should have scored in the first period but video replay couldn't verify the goal with enough confidence.
Jordan Staal: 7.5. Even though he was tortured in the faceoff circle (6-for-17), his line was dominant for most of the night. Picked up a pair of assists including the one on the game-winner. A hard-working performance that you've come to expect.
Max Talbot: 6.5. Active, always seemed like a threat to make something happen. Down 3-0 with the prospect of going to Game 7, half of Pittsburgh probably expected him to drop the gloves like he did a year ago to change the momentum. Only was beat to the punchline by Cooke's goal.
The Penguins now must await their next opponent. The only team of the ones remaining that they could not meet in the second round is Washington.
Stat Line of the Series: Crosby— 5 goals, 9 assists, plus-7, 14 points.
The last time the Penguins won a series on home ice was the Eastern Conference Finals in 2008, against the Philadelphia Flyers.