Ottawa Senators goaltender Craig Anderson has recorded 21 shutouts in his seven years with the Senators. None had anywhere near the magnitude of what he produced on Sunday night in Edmonton.
Just two days after the Senators announced that Anderson’s wife Nicholle had been diagnosed with cancer, the goaltender flew to Edmonton at his wife’s urging and shut down the current Western Conference-leading Edmonton Oilers, stopping 37 shots and earning the first-ever shutout at Rogers Place, an emotional 2-0 Ottawa victory that earned Anderson a well-deserved outpouring of love from his Senators teammates.
“Tonight was about more than hockey,” Senators owner Eugene Melnyk told Yahoo Sports. He said it was about drawing strength from Anderson’s teammates and the entire Senators family.
With his team on a three-game road swing through western Canada, Craig Anderson initially left the Senators on Thursday to return to Ottawa and be with Nicholle as she faced her diagnosis. However, those plans changed Friday night during the Senators’ 5-2 loss at Calgary, which saw backup goaltender Andrew Hammond exit the game with a lower-body injury. Hammond was placed on injured reserve for a week, leaving the Senators with the unappealing prospect of sending AHL goaltender Matt O’Connor against the 7-1-0 Oilers for the second start of his NHL career.
But from her bed in Ottawa, Nicholle Anderson threw the Senators a lifeline by telling Craig Anderson that his teammates needed him more than she did on Sunday night.
According to Ottawa general manager Pierre Dorion, Nicholle wanted him to play. He said. that it was her who told Anderson, “Craig, your teammates need you right now.” After talking with Craig and Nicholle, consulting their doctors, the team felt it was the right timeframe for him to rejoin the team,
With his wife’s blessing, Craig Anderson was sharp from start to finish, allowing Mike Hoffman’s marker in the second period to be the difference for the Senators. Bobby Ryan added an empty-net goal, and every member of the Senators hugged Anderson as the emotionally spent netminder put his head down following the victory. Anderson did not speak after the game, but his teammates said all that was necessary.
Ottawa captain Erik Karlsson told CBC that Craig Anderson led them through a great game. He also said that while their was pain in his eyes, he is a leader, held a strong face, and led the team by example.
Following the game, Oilers fans saluted Anderson for his performance, as he was named the game’s first star. In a further show of support, Edmonton goaltender Cam Talbot stuck around for the three stars to applaud Anderson, despite being on the losing end.
“You have to give him so much credit,” Talbot said. It’s an unthinkable situation.”
The Senators’ western Canada road swing ended in Edmonton, as Ottawa returns home to face Carolina on Tuesday. That will be the first of three straight home games, allowing Craig Anderson the ability to both play for his team and be with his wife. The Senators don’t travel again until a Nov. 8 visit to Nashville, at which point Hammond might rejoin the team.
Readers, what are your thoughts on Anderson’s performance? Could you have handled such a situation? What about the reactions of the Senators and the Oilers? Sound off in the comments below.
By Dan Angell
Photo Courtesy Twitter