Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Matt Murray (30) makes a save as Ottawa Senators right wing Mark Stone (61) looks for a the puck during the third period of game six of the Eastern Conference final in the NHL Stanley Cup hockey playoffs in Ottawa on Tuesday, May 23, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand

Sens stave off elimination, force Game 7

OTTAWA — The Ottawa Senators are still alive.

Mike Hoffman scored the go-ahead goal early in the third period of Game 6 as the Sens brushed off elimination with a 2-1 win on Tuesday and sent the Eastern Conference final to a decisive Game 7 in Pittsburgh.

Ottawa was facing elimination for the first time in the playoffs.

Bobby Ryan also scored a rare power-play goal for Ottawa and Craig Anderson was terrific with 44 saves.

Matt Murray gave up a pair on 30 shots and Evgeni Malkin mustered the lone goal for the Penguins, who will shoot for their second straight Stanley Cup final appearance once more on Thursday night.

The Sens managed to quickly forget a 7-0 pounding two days earlier in Game 5, stave off the end of their season and land one more shot at a first Stanley Cup final appearance in 10 years.

“You can see it as an elimination game, or you can see it as an opportunity, and we know what we choose,” head coach Guy Boucher said before the game.

Ottawa was primarily looking for a return to structure in Game 6, beginning with a smoother start — which they got.

Notable in a scoreless first frame were two effective penalty kills, one of which saw Viktor Stalberg get the best opportunity shorthanded.

Pittsburgh had four shots with the man advantage, but Anderson stopped them all. The 35-year-old struggled through Games 4 and 5 — yielding seven goals — but it was evident early that he had his game back. He stopped Nick Bonino off a rebound in transition, Scott Wilson off a deflected Phil Kessel shot and Bonino again when Kyle Turris gave the puck away.

Sharp, too, was Murray, the 22-year-old who replaced Marc-Andre Fleury after Game 3. He made maybe his finest save of the first on Derick Brassard, who found an open lane down the middle of the ice following a blue-line feed from Ryan.

The opening 20 minutes looked more in line with what Boucher had in mind. He thought his team got sucked into run-and-gun hockey with the Pens in the blowout loss and required a return to the club’s well-established defensive brand.

“We lost in a way that we didn’t want to lose,” captain Erik Karlsson said of the Sunday defeat before Tuesday’s game. “But it also made us also realize that we have to do a lot of things a little bit different and we have to be a lot better.”

The Pens looked to have opened the scoring just over three minutes into the second, but Trevor Daley was deemed to have interfered with Anderson following an Ottawa challenge.

Less than two minutes later though and Pittsburgh had the 1-0 lead anyway off a few moments of brilliance from Malkin. The playoff scoring leading (24 points) bounced off a check from Zack Smith behind the goal and after being stopped on his drive to the net, followed up with a nifty backhand rebound to beat Anderson.

It was the 153rd career playoff point in 142 games for Malkin — three back of Sidney Crosby for second among active players (Jaromir Jagr) — who had been jarring with Mike Hoffman a few minutes earlier.

The Sens had little cooking until a lengthy five-on-three advantage (1:24) came about just past the midway point of the period. Another source of concern heading into the game, the Ottawa power play had gone 0 for 29 in the previous 10 games. But it hummed effectively this time around with Ryan ultimately wiring a one-timer short-side — evening the game at one.

It was the sixth goal and 15th point of the playoffs for Ryan, who sits second to Erik Karlsson (16 points) in Sens playoff scoring.

Pittsburgh mostly owned the second, pounding 23 shots on Anderson while mustering 82 per cent of even-strength shot attempts (27-6).

Hoffman gave the Sens the lead 94 seconds into the third though, blasting a slap-shot past Murray following a backhand feed — and follow-up traffic in front — from Fredrik Claesson.

Anderson stopped all 12 shots he faced in the third to close out the Pens.

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