Mike Hoffman goal helps Ottawa Senators force Game 7 vs. Pittsburgh Penguins

By Don Brennan, The Sports Xchange  |  May 24, 2017 at 10:06 AM
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OTTAWA -- Mike Hoffman says there was never a doubt.

Anybody and everybody who watched Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Final -- or two periods of Game 6 -- might have disagreed.

Yet just as they have done all year, the Ottawa Senators showed how resilient they are with a come-from-behind 2-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday night at Canadian Tire Centre that tied the best-of-seven series 3-3.

The deciding game is Thursday in Pittsburgh, with the winner moving on to face the Nashville Predators in the Stanley Cup Final.

While Senators goalie Craig Anderson was the hero of night with 44 saves, sharing the lead role was Hoffman.

His booming shot at 1:34 of the third period went off both posts before settling into the net as the winner.

"Any time you lose by a converted touchdown, it's not good," Hoffman said of Sunday's 7-0 loss in Pittsburgh. "Especially in hockey."

But the Senators "flushed" the tapes and moved on confidently.

"Yesterday, we had a meeting and that was the talk down here," Hoffman said. "We're winning this hockey game no matter how or what. We were coming out here and we were going to win and we did that.

"This is a great group of guys in here. You have to have something special to make it this far in the playoffs. Everyone stepped up tonight."

Hoffman stepped up and into a slap shot after taking a drop pass from Fredrik Claesson to score his sixth goal of the playoffs.

"I had a decent amount of time to corral it and pick my spot," Hoffman said. "I guess I was just waiting for the guys to create some room so I was able to shoot through a screen and beat him on the far side."

Penguins goalie Matt Murray, who made 28 saves, admitted he was partly screened on the play by Claesson.

"He's one of the best shooters in the league," Murray said of Hoffman. "I just tried to be aggressive. I knew there wasn't a pass option.

"He did a really good job of holding it and waiting for that screen to get to the net. The guy in front skated by right at the release point. I was late picking it up and he puts it right off the post. That was a pretty good shot."

The Senators were outplayed for much of the night but stayed afloat with the play of Anderson.

Two nights after giving up four goals on 14 shots and being pulled in Game 5, Anderson bounced back by stopping 22 of the 23 shots he faced in the second period.

Senators center Zack Smith called it a "monstrous" performance.

Ottawa defenseman Marc Methot agreed.

"To see him have a bounce-back game, I'm not even remotely surprised," Methot said. "It's what I expected of him and he didn't disappoint. He was a monster out there for us and that's what we need."

Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin and Ottawa's Bobby Ryan exchanged second-period goals after the Penguins appeared to break the ice earlier, only to have a Trevor Daley goal waived off because of goalie interference.

Penguins coach Mike Sullivan didn't get an explanation for the decision, nor did he ask for one.

"It doesn't matter, they're not going to change their minds," Sullivan said. "They're going to make the call that they think is right. It doesn't matter what the rest of us think."

To a man, the Penguins were happy with the way they played.

"We played a good game," captain Sidney Crosby said. "It happens sometimes in the playoffs. We've got to regroup, but we did a lot of good things. We probably deserved better tonight."

Malkin's goal was a great solo effort. After beating Zack Smith in a battle near the end boards, he stepped out front to take a shot that Anderson stopped, but Malkin grabbed the rebound, deked to his backhand and slid the puck in for his seventh goal of the playoffs.

"One goal, it's not enough for us," Malkin said. "We need to score more. If we want to win, we need to score more."

Ryan's second-period goal was scored with the Senators enjoying a five-on-three man-advantage that stopped their power play drought at 0 of 29.

"Really a lucky goal," Ryan said of his short-side shot. "To see it go in, I think we in the sense, community, took a collective breath there because it was overdue."

Going forward, the Penguins will stick to the same script in an effort to get back to the finals for a second straight year.

"I think we played the way we need to," Murray said. "Credit to them they played a solid defensive game, but we were controlling the play.

"Anderson had a big night. If not for him, I think it's a different result. We just keep our same focus and just worry about what we're doing."

NOTES: Senators C Colin White played his first NHL playoff game. ... Senators LW Tommy Wingels was scratched and replaced by LW Ryan Dzingel. ... Injured Penguins RW Patric Hornqvist, RW Tom Kuhnhackl and D Chad Ruhwedel did not accompany the team to Ottawa, but coach Mike Sullivan said all were progressing in their recovery.

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