OTTAWA - Craig Anderson has returned to form just in time to give the Ottawa Senators a chance against the top seed in the Eastern Conference.
Anderson was a pivotal part of Ottawa's 2-1 double-overtime win over Pittsburgh on Sunday that cut the Penguins' lead to 2-1 in the best-of-seven second-round playoff series.
He made 49 saves in Game 3, and his stunning performance was timely. It came after he was pulled less than two minutes into the second period of Game 2 after allowing three goals on 21 shots.
"You have to put things behind you as quick as possible and regardless of wins or loses you have to look forward to the next day and try and improve on your last performance," Anderson said Monday as both teams had a day off from skating.
"I just kept things simple and focused on things I could control which was stopping the puck. It was exciting. We found a way to win. We did a lot of good things and we got rewarded."
Anderson shut the door on a Sidney Crosby breakaway and made an acrobatic stop on Evgeni Malkin, who used every move in his repertoire to get around the Ottawa defence and get a shot off in the first overtime.
The only thing keeping the play from being a goal-of-the year candidate was the fact the Anderson refused to allow the puck to cross the goal-line.
"That was a pretty impressive performance coming off the first time he gets pulled all year, and one of the more clutch performances from a goaltender because of the stakes and the landscape of the series and how it would have changed had we gone down 3-0 in the series," said Senators forward Jason Spezza, who made his playoff debut Sunday following back surgery that limited him to just five games at the start of the regular season.
"Andy looked like the way Andy has looked all year, and that's confident and calm. He's a guy that has a good edge to him and I think that suits our team well. He’s real competitive, he’s demanding of our team in front of him and I think we have a good dynamic."
The Senators put the game away when Colin Greening scored in the eighth minute of double overtime. Game 4 is Wednesday before the series shifts back to Pittsburgh for Game 5 Friday.
Senators coach Paul MacLean says that he has enjoyed success scoring goals—he had 324 of them during his NHL career—but he has no experience venturing into the minds of goaltenders.
"I'm concerned with (the goaltender) all the time, but I try to spend no time with them at all," MacLean said Monday.
"Rick Wamsley our goaltending coach does an outstanding job with the goaltender. I've had the ability in the past to score on goaltenders but I'm not really sure how they go about their business and I don't pretend to.
"We do spend some time talking to them but not about how they play their position, but just about keeping their mind where it needs to be and if there are any issues we can solve."
As for Spezza, he put in some overtime in his first game since January 27, also against the Penguins.
"It was fun. It's been a long road for my and the longest season personally having to watch the games," he said. "It was pretty satisfying just to be in the lineup and to get a win in dramatic fashion makes it all worthwhile.
"I feel good. I feel like I played my first double-overtime game in four months, but my back feels no worse for wear and in fact I'm encouraged that I can go through a game like that and feel good the next day. It's not the type of game that I would have wanted to start with, but now that we've had it I think it benefits me.”
Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma thought it was the best road game his team played during these playoffs, but was very disappointed obviously with the way it ended, and especially the fact they had a lead and a power play with 1:27 seconds remaining in regulation.
Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson tied the game with a short-handed goal in the final minute of regulation before Greening finally put the game away.
"We didn't accomplish our goal of holding onto the puck through that minute 27," he said. "We gave up a second dump and that was the one they were able to come back on a line rush that Alfredsson scored on.
"We had some good opportunities, especially five-on-three. I think the Malkin chance, and both Sid and Jarome (Iginla) had some good looks but Anderson was up to the task. He was real strong."
Anderson will have to display much of the same if the Senators are going to be able to turn the best-of-seven into a best-of-three.