“Oh, I don’t know. He played well for them, I’ll say that,” said the Pittsburgh Penguins coach, after his team’s 2-1 loss to the Senators that pushed the Eastern Conference Final to a Game 7. “He played well. He made some timely saves.”
Did Ottawa Senators goalie Craig Anderson steal Game 6 with a 45-save performance, Matt Murray?
“We were controlling play for the most part. Anderson had a big night,” said the Penguins goalie, who made 28 saves. “If not for him, I think it’s a different result”
Murray’s right, of course. This is what Anderson can do in the postseason, in any given game. There was that 51-save shutout for the Colorado Avalanche in 2010. There was that 48-save win for Ottawa against the Montreal Canadiens in 2013. And on Tuesday night, there was his 45-save effort against a Penguins team that was very eager to close out the series and start preparing for the Nashville Predators.
But Anderson said no.
Turns out, he’s also the reason Guy Boucher said “yes” to Ottawa in taking its head-coaching gig.
“Last summer. I’ll be honest with you, if I didn’t have a No. 1 goalie, I didn’t want the job. I’ve lived it for quite a few years, and it’s hell when you don’t have it because everything you do turns to darkness, and there’s nothing that really matters when you don’t have a real No. 1 goaltender,” said Boucher, a master of understatement.
“That was one of the biggest reasons why this job for me was appealing. It wasn’t just an NHL job. You don’t want an NHL job. You want a job where you have a chance.”
Anderson gave them one in Game 6.
It was a rebound effort from him after he was pulled in Game 5, giving up four goals on 14 shots in the Penguins’ 7-0 rout.
“The moment I got yanked in that game, it’s gone. You can’t change what happened in the past. So from that moment on, you have to look forward and get ready for the next one,” said Anderson. “As far as tonight, you just try to stay in the moment as best you can and focus on the baby steps. One shot at a time, and the big picture takes care of itself when you worry about the details.”
In theory, it’s the Penguins that should be worried. This is the third round in which the Penguins blew a chance to eliminate an opponent. Granted, it all worked out OK in the previous two times.
“I don’t see a common denominator other than the fact we’re playing good hockey teams. I think it’s hard to win. So we’re playing good hockey teams, and these guys, they’re playing with their backs against the wall,” said Sullivan.
Now both teams have their backs against the wall. But the Penguins will enter Game 7 with some confidence: Not only because the game is on home ice, but because they were one Craig Anderson away from closing this thing out in six.
“We’ve got to regroup here, but we did a lot of good things and probably deserved better tonight,” said captain Sidney Crosby of the Penguins. “We’ve got to convert, but the chances were there and if we bring that same effort in Game 7 we give ourselves a good chance.”
“When you look at the offensive zone time and the possession time and the shots we had and the traffic in front and the amount of scoring chances that we generated … it’s hard to not like a lot of that,” said Sullivan.
“The puck didn’t go in the net for us tonight, but I believe, if we stay the course there, then pucks will go in.”
Unless, of course, Anderson decides they won’t again.
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