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Wednesday, May 24, 2017

{allcanada} Belief fuels Senators' confidence entering Game 7

 

OTTAWA -- Forward Clarke MacArthur wondered if he were the only one who believed the Ottawa Senators could still get to the Stanley Cup Final after losing 7-0 in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Final.

Then he had a conversation with defenseman Dion Phaneuf during a ride home after their flight touched down in Ottawa late Sunday, hours after getting, as several Senators players have since said, slapped in the face by the Pittsburgh Penguins at PPG Paints Arena.

MacArthur realized he was not alone. It was refreshing and, frankly, reassuring.

"I was driving back, talking to Dion, and he was like, 'We're going to get this series,' " MacArthur said Wednesday, minutes before the Senators boarded their flight back to Pittsburgh, where they will play Game 7 on Thursday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).

"I was thinking the same thing. How do you think that after you lose 7-0?"

Belief. That's how.

It's strong in these Senators and it gained strength in Game 6 on Tuesday, when they avoided elimination with a 2-1 win. Goaltender Craig Anderson made 45 saves, forward Bobby Ryan scored a game-tying 5-on-3 power-play goal late in the second period and forward Mike Hoffman got the winner at 1:34 of the third.

"I just believe in the group we have," MacArthur said. "I know when we play our game, and if we're on we can beat any team in the League, and if we're off we can have an off night. But I've never been on a team that reloads as quick as we do. That's what this time of year is all about. It's forget it, move on, and we did that. Now we have to forget [Tuesday] night too."

The players who met with the media Wednesday spoke like a group that had already put the emotional win in the bank and was ready to move on.

"We didn't put a nice suit on today to [go to Pittsburgh] and get a loss," MacArthur said. "We're going there to win a game and we're going to lay it on the line."

That means continuing to believe and buy into the power of positive thinking, which MacArthur said helped carry the Senators through the second period of Game 6, when they were outshot 23-10 but still ended up tied 1-1.

"At this point, no matter what the periods look like, if you get out of there and it's still even, you have to be positive," MacArthur said. "You can't be kicking yourself. I just feel like if we can stick with it, things finally start to turn and they did [Tuesday] night."

The Senators also spoke about their game plan, which they said can't change much from Game 6 except for cutting down on the number of shots against.

"I think we've got to go there and bore them out of the building," MacArthur said. "That's what we've got to do."

That quote drew some laughs from the media, but he was serious.

"Especially with this team, you have to take the middle of the ice away," MacArthur said. "Their centermen are the best in the League, and to slow them down and keep it to the outside and disinterest them a little bit will only give us a better chance."

The Senators did the opposite of that in Games 4 and 5 and lost each by a combined score of 10-2. They weren't great at it in Game 6, but did do a better job of keeping the Penguins' rush chances to a minimum, and Anderson bailed them out when he had to.

"We have to play the same way," coach Guy Boucher said.

He believes that only because the alternative is too dangerous, something he feels was proven in Games 4 and 5. Boucher blamed the Senators' success in Game 3, a 5-1 win in which they scored four goals in the first 12:52, for them getting away from their game plan in Games 4 and 5.

"It was great to win it, but it hurt us," Boucher said. "It hurt our identity because it gave us the false impression that we could go out there and match them offensively. I mean, they've got the most offensive stars in the League. Nobody has that. So if we thought that we were going to match that and go head to head in their style, it burned us.

"[Tuesday] we didn't want to do that. We wanted to be ourselves and make sure that we didn't give them any freebies and breakaways and 2-on-1s and 3-on-2s and 4-on-2s."

The Senators spoke about Game 7 experience, but they can't lean on it to get them through.

Pittsburgh's players expected to play Thursday, including forward Patric Hornqvist and defenseman Justin Schultz, have 62 games of Game 7 experience between them. Ottawa's players who are expected to play have 20.

Boucher, though, said experience shouldn't matter if the Senators treat Game 7 the way it needs to be treated.

"It's just a game, but the tough part is to actually take everything out and make it just a game, make it what it is," Boucher said. "It's ice and boards, our team against their team, the same as it was yesterday and everything else outside, the big picture, that's your jobs, that's the fans' perspective and their fun and their involvement in it. For us, everything has to stay inside our bubble."

Except for their belief in their chances, in themselves, their ability, their resolve. That belief is rightfully bursting out of their bubble. MacArthur is most definitely not alone.

"The mind is a powerful thing," Anderson said. "If you believe you're beaten, you're done already. If you believe you can win there's always a chance."

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