OTTAWA -- The kid, 2 years old in May, was standing in the elevator, his back to the wall. The Ottawa Senators jersey he wore was obscured, hard to see which player he had chosen. He had just admitted his father was a hockey player, a member of those same Senators, and when asked if his father might score in the game that night, Game 2 against the Boston Bruins on Saturday, he said yes.
He was, in a sense, taking it on faith that his father did indeed score goals. But Senators forward Clarke MacArthur had not scored since April 9, 2015, the entirety of Gus' life, because he's spent the past two seasons battling the effects of four concussions in 18 months.
But there he was, at 10:57 of the second period, shooting it past Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask, tying the game on the power play, raising his arms to the ceiling, and celebrating as the entirety of Ottawa celebrated with him.
His son's words had come true. Clarke MacArthur had scored. It was pure joy for everyone, for his teammates and coaches, for the Senators fans who agonized along with him, presumably for Gus himself, though as MacArthur lamented later, "He won't remember it."
That was just a detail, in the end.
The moment was what mattered, the biggest and most meaningful goal of MacArthur's NHL career, an arrival back on a stage that he worried he would never again reach.
"I'll be honest with you, for me personally, I had the goose bumps and everything you can imagine because you know what he's been through," Senators coach Guy Boucher said. "You know how much the players care and so do I.
"After seeing everything that it took for him to come back is one thing and see him play that good is another, but to actually get a goal in the playoffs -- when he raised his arms, I think the whole city did at the same time."
In January, the Senators shut down MacArthur for the season, putting his career in question, after he failed a baseline concussion test. General manager Pierre Dorion announced that Senators doctors did not feel that the 32-year-old should return to the ice this season. It was too risky, they believed. MacArthur started to think about retirement.
While making his comeback from a concussion sustained Oct. 14, 2015, MacArthur got another one three days into training camp this season on a hit by teammate Patrick Sieloff. He again tried to make a comeback, again worked to get himself back on the ice, and it seemed that this time he might not be so lucky.
And yet there he was at the end of the regular season. There he was on the ice for Game 1 and Game 2 against the Bruins. There he was taking a feed from Bobby Ryan by the net and beating Rask. There he was with his head high and his arms higher, basking in the adulation and the roar of the crowd.
"Awesome," MacArthur said. "Just a great feeling. You knew everyone wanted me to get one, too, it felt like. That's what it felt like. The whole city has been having to listen to me over the last couple years, trying to make comebacks and what not and you get that ovation, it was just ….
"Probably the best moment I have in hockey."
And not just for him.
Dion Phaneuf has known MacArthur for years, going back to their junior hockey days, and before that growing up in Alberta. They have been opponents and teammates, becoming close friends along the way. That was why it meant so much to Phaneuf to watch what happened, a goal by MacArthur that nearly overshadowed his overtime winner, which Phaneuf said was the biggest of his career.
The goal gave the Senators a 4-3 win and evened their Eastern Conference First Round series 1-1. Game 3 is at TD Garden in Boston on Monday (7 p.m. ET; CNBC, SN, TVA Sports, NESN).
"You can't say enough about Clarke, the way that he continued to push to come back for our team and what he went through," Phaneuf said. "Being a close friend of his, seeing him go through what he went through, the whole city, the whole building, everyone is behind him and there's a reason for that.
"He's a huge part of our team and just the commitment to come back and do everything in his power to help our team, just incredible."
For MacArthur it felt like forever, every one of those days stretching into the next, without hockey, without goals, without the promise of either of those voids being filled. They were filled Saturday, when teammates surrounded him and cheers rained down, when something that once seemed like it would never again happen, happened.
"It was very special," Boucher said. "One of the most special moments I've lived as a coach because it's everybody in the rink, the players, the organization, celebrating something that must have been very, very tough to live all year."
MacArthur had been patient. He had waited all season, had gone through the recovery, had spent the time practicing and hoping and believing, even in the face of his chances growing dim.
That was what allowed him to be on the ice Saturday, to receive the pass from Ryan, to send it past Rask. That was what allowed him to raise his head and his arms, to score the first goal of Gus' two years, something that he will never, ever forget, even if Gus might not remember.
"Definitely never going to take my last goal for granted," MacArthur said. "That's for sure."
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