While there is some shame to be had in losing the way they did Saturday night, the Ottawa Senators can find some solace in the fact that the embarrassment they suffered almost seemed predetermined.
By now, if you were interested in knowing what had happened, you almost certainly do. If you don't, let me briefly fill you in: The Sens held a 3-0 lead in the second period of last night's game six against the Pens. With the Pens leading the series 3-2, they stormed back with four unanswered goals, the winner in overtime, to beat the Sens 4-3, thus eliminating them from Stanley Cup contention.
Now, if you're not a hockey fan, let me just relay the fact that a team successfully coming back from a three-goal deficit is rare. It's very improbable, but definitely possible, as the Penguins proved not only last night, but a year ago today when almost the exact set of circumstances unfolded for the Penguins when they beat the Philadelphia Flyers to eliminate them in game six of that Eastern Conference quarterfinal series.
In that game, the Pens had staked the Flyers a three-goal lead as well. That game they won 5-3 instead of 4-3, but the similarities are astonishing, starting with the fact that both home teams were on the verge of guaranteeing themselves a game seven, that is until the Penguins woke up and decided not to let them have one.
I'm not about to argue that Pittsburgh is a team of destiny all of a sudden, as if they were last year as well. I don't believe in destiny. I do believe in the better team winning consistently over a long-enough stretch. Last night and one year and one day ago, the Penguins just ended up being the better, more motivated team. They wanted it bad enough, had the skill to back up that desire, and made near-fantasy a reality. Good on them.
I picked Pittsburgh to make it to the Stanley Cup Final for a third-straight year and while I'm relatively satisfied that at least one half of the endgame of my bracket remains intact, it's the other half that I'm least concerned with as the Chicago Blackhawks put together an even more improbable finish to their 5-4 overtime victory over the Nashville Predators in game five of their series.
Tying a one-goal game late makes for a great finish in the best of times, but to do it with a man in the penalty box as Chicago did is almost miraculous. To do it with one of your premier offensive weapons in Marian Hossa as that man in the penalty box is even more so. To kill off a five-minute major handed to that player, four minutes of which was served in overtime, and still come out on top is an achievement, no doubt, but to have that same player come out of the penalty box to score the game-winning goal on the very same play…. Well, none of the above-mentioned adjectives seem to do it justice. It can almost be described as destiny… Almost.