PITTSBURGH — For the Ottawa Senators, there was no tomorrow, so playing as long as possible in Game 5 wasn't an option, but a necessity.
If it took all night, great — that meant they were still in it.
While Game 5 at Mellon Arena didn't take all night, it did go 7:06 into the third overtime before Senators defenceman Matt Carkner's point shot hit the Penguins' Matt Cooke and eluded goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury to give the Ottawa an emotional and exhausting 4-3 win and the chance to stay alive until Saturday, when Game 6 is played at Scotiabank Place (7 p.m., CBC, Team 1200).
"It's an unbelievable feeling," Carkner said. "We battled hard all night long."
And a long night it was, with the game finally decided shortly before the stroke of midnight.
"The guys showed a lot of character," Senators head coach Cory Clouston said. "I thought the last half of the second and first half of the third, we kind of sat back and it was almost like we were waiting for something bad to happen. It wasn't until they went ahead that we started to just play our game."
How impressive were the Senators defensively? They had 46 blocked shots, compared with 17 for the Penguins, and combined with the strong play of netminder Pascal Leclaire, who was making his first career playoff start, they frustrated a Pittsburgh attack that had 59 shots on goal.
"They did a remarkable job of making it difficult to get the puck through," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "Their defence was blocking a lot of shots and their goalie played very well."
Ottawa had 21 shots in the three overtimes, compared with 17 for the Penguins. That was in stark contrast to regulation, when Pittsburgh held a 42-23 edge in shots and it just seemed to be a matter of when and not if the Penguins would score. But the Senators hung in and hung in and then hung in some more, seemingly staggered by all the Pittsburgh offence, but also playing expertly in deflecting shots away from Leclaire, who was exceptionally strong when called upon.
"He played outstanding," Clouston said. "He was confident, comfortable. I thought he was very square and poised. Boy, did he come through for us."
Sidney Crosby continued his assault on the playoff scoring lead, scoring his fifth goal and adding an assist for 13 points, tops in the NHL. Overall, Crosby had eight shots.
Both clubs had good chances in the overtimes, especially in the first when a score of penalties set up some power-play time. Perhaps the best scoring chance came off the stick of Daniel Alfredsson, who would go on to set up Carkner's eventual winner. Midway through the first OT, Alfredsson was looking at some open net, but a sprawling Cooke got his stick on the Senators captain's and blunted the attempt.
Evgeni Malkin also had a glorious chance for the Pens with 15 minutes left in the second overtime when his shot from the slot rang off the post to Leclaire's right. Several minutes later, Ottawa's Peter Regin almost won it from in close on Marc-Andre Fleury off a wonderful play from Jason Spezza.
And so it continued until Alfredsson drove into the Pittsburgh end, wheeled back and spotted Carkner, whose drive did what hundreds of other offensive attempts failed to do — find the back of the net.
"Three overtimes and we knew it wasn't going to be a pretty goal," Carkner said. "I think it deflected off someone — I didn't even know how it went in — but it's just a great feeling right now."
The Senators actually jumped to a 2-0 lead hours earlier in the first period. They were so dominant that Bylsma called his timeout after their second goal to bark at his players that it was about time to wake up.
It was indeed a sleepy start for the Penguins but not for the desperate Sens, who were crisp and committed with elimination staring them in the face. Leclaire, who took the loss in relief of Brian Elliott in Game 4, was making his first playoff start and he stood tall immediately, blunting an early Penguins' power play, stopping Malkin, Crosby and Alexei Ponikarovsky over the course of the two minutes.
Ottawa jumped ahead 1-0 at 10:25 when Mike Fisher scored on the power play after Mike Rupp took an unnecessary roughing penalty after the whistle at 10:00. Spezza did the heavy lifting on the goal, carrying the puck through the Penguins' zone and then getting the puck out to Erik Karlsson, whose shot from the right point was redirected off Fisher's left skate, off the left skate of Pens defenceman Sergei Gonchar and into the net.
Jarkko Ruutu made it 2-0 at 11:33, converting a strong behind-the-net move by Nick Foligno, who got past Jay McKee and then wheeled behind the net to get open and put the puck in the crease when Ruutu jammed it home.
Bylsma called a timeout after that goal, but the break didn't energize the Pens, who nearly were behind by three when Alfredsson's backhander into a nearly open net was denied by Fleury's left pad.
Late in the first, the Penguins put on some sustained pressure on the Ottawa zone and it paid off when Chris Phillips was whistled for cross-checking at 17:51. Off a scramble in the Sens' zone, the puck deflected off a skate and came to Kris Letang at the left circle. The young defenceman's rising bullet beat Leclaire to the stick side to put the Pens within a goal.
Video review was instrumental in the Penguins tying the game 2-2 with 1:26 remaining in the second period. Referee Brian Pochmara originally waved off an apparent goal by Chris Kunitz, whose second whack at a Crosby shot went into the net. The referee indicated the net had come off its mooring prior to the puck crossing the line.
The play went to video review and numerous angles showed that while the net was riding up the peg that secures it to the ice, it hadn't become dislodged before the puck crossed the line. Thus the goal counted, going into the books as Kunitz's first of the post-season at 18:24.
The Pens did have a goal disallowed early in the third period. Skating on the power play, Kunitz redirected a point shot by Gonchar into the net with a high stick, negating what would have been the Penguins' third goal at the time.
But the Penguins continued to press and were rewarded when Crosby scored his fifth of the playoffs to give Pittsburgh a 3-2 lead at 9:01 of the third period. Pittsburgh seemed to be ready to send the Senators home for the summer, but Regin shocked the Mellon Arena crowd when he scored his third of the series at 10:24 to tie the game again.
Crosby's goal came on the rebound of a drive by Malkin that caromed into the slot, where the Penguins captain was able to get a shot off while falling to the ice. With the Senators struggling to find any offence over the second and third periods, Regin's goal seemingly came out of nowhere as he scored on a 45-foot straightaway slapper that went through traffic and beat Fleury to the glove side.
1 - 0 OTT