In the playoffs, it's hard to find a game that is not referred to as a "must-win". Whether you're the team ahead or the team trailing, almost every game is a "must-win".
Last night, with the Senators leading the quarterfinal series 2-1, many of the Sens' spectators were calling it a "must-win". Then again, so were the Pittsburgh fans. With the Sens leading the series 2-1, it was imperative for them to come away with a victory to put a stranglehold on the series and show the killer instinct. On the flip side, the Penguins needed the win to stay in the series and keep their hopes alive.
For the team with the 2-1 advantage, this game is extremely important. There's a very fine line between taking a commanding 3-1 lead, and being tied 2-2. Had the Sens lost last night's game, momentum would have swung in Pittsburgh's favour, the slate would've been wiped clean, and it would've come down to a best-of-3.
In the past, under that kind of pressure, the Sens might've collapsed. But not last night.
Last night, with Pittsburgh giving it all they had, running our guys all over the ice and driving to the net every chance they got, it was the Senators who came out victorious. All thanks to the man between the pipes, Mr. Ray Emery!!
Ray was hot last night, that's for sure. The Sens took an early 1-0 lead thanks to a Jason Spezza blooper that just happened to tip of Jordan Staal's stick and then floated into the net. (Thank you, Chris Neil, for not touching that puck with your high stick, despite your best efforts.) The rest of the first was back-and-forth action, with nobody seeming to "click" out there. There were a lot of battles along the sideboards, and a lot of missed passes, with both goalies making big saves when necessary.
In the second, I thought the Penguins really took it to the Sens, and with either Chris Phillips or Anton Volchenkov spending much of the period in the box, the Sens were put back a little on their heels. The penalty-killing, however, was strong, and the Sens did not allow the Pens to capitalize on the power play. Staal did manage to squeak one through after a scramble in front of Emery even strength, so that technically gave him 2 goals on the night. But going in to the third, it was dead-locked at 1 apiece.
So the third period was what I like to call "gut-check time". And let me tell ya, it was hard on my ticker. When Anton Volchenkov finally broke the tie midway through the period, it was a minor relief, but all I could think of was how difficult it was going to be to hold that lead for the rest of the period. I was certain the Penguins would find a way to tie things up and send it to OT.
I didn't have to worry. The Sens went to work defensively and Emery shut the door. It's what my dad called "perfect playoff hockey". In the past, the Sens have been criticized for not being able to do what they did last night - sit on a one-goal lead and win a tight game. Last night, they did it.
I could be a lot crankier today. If the Penguins had won their "must-win game", it would be a different story.
But that wasn't the case. Last night, we won the "must-win". And that's thanks in large part to the Razor's edge.
GO SENS GO!!
(Guys, I didn't proofread this at all so if there's a million mistakes and it makes no sense, I apologize!)