It was the first goal for McNally since Nov. 21. The top-pair defenseman had returned to the lineup this weekend after sustaining a serious leg injury at Cornell in late January.
“I really just never gave up hope and just took it one day at a time,” McNally said of his rehabilitation. “I focused on that, just getting better little bit by little bit.”
In overtime the Crimson would play without Blackwell, who was sidelined with cramps, but McNally continued to change the shape of the game. He skated away with a bloody forehead at 14:55 in the extra frame after a head-first hit into the Yale backboards by senior forward Matt Killian, who was assessed a five minute major and game disqualification for the play.
Harvard’s power play failed to convert on the major penalty, yet Donato remained positive heading into the fourth intermission.
“I went [into the locker room] and kind of joked and said, ‘You know what guys, we don’t want any excuses when we get this done anyway, so let’s do it five-on-five,’” Donato said.
Harvard survived two minor penalties in the fifth frame before McNally followed up his goal with a helper on Vesey’s game-winner. With 3:21 on the clock, Crimson sophomore Alex Kerfoot won a faceoff in the Yale zone out to McNally, who sent in a long wrist shot that Kerfoot tipped left on its way to Vesey.
Vesey, who leads Division I in goals per game with 27 strikes in 34 contests, also had the deciding third-period goal in the series opener on Friday.
“I said Friday’s was [the biggest goal of my career], but I think this one tops it by a long shot,” Vesey said.
Harvard’s only lead in regulation lasted 21 seconds in the first period.
After sophomore forward Tyler Moy slipped a close-angle unassisted strike under Lyon’s pads low in the right faceoff circle, the Bulldogs marched back on their next offensive possession.
On a rush, junior forward Carson Cooper sent an outside shot on Harvard goaltender Steve Michalek, who could not locate the puck at his skates before junior Cody Learned poked it through the crease to draw even at 10:22 in the first period.
In the next frame, Yale took a 2-1 lead on the power play as Frank DiChiara struck on a one-timer from the top of the right faceoff circle at 11:58.
That score would stand for over a period, largely due to the work of the netminders. Both Lyon and fourth-year Harvard goaltender Steve Michalek made game-saving stops throughout regulation and overtime.
Michalek (40 saves) swatted away a point-blank opportunity from Trent Ruffalo in the middle of the second period and stopped Cody Learned on a close second-chance opportunity in the first overtime.
Lyon (39 saves) forced sophomore forward Luke Esposito wide on a breakaway opportunity early in the overtime frame and provided multiple impressive stops, including one on junior co-captain Kyle Criscuolo with 18.9 seconds left in the first extra frame.
“With all the emotional ups and downs with the power plays and the penalty kills, Lyon probably made a dozen huge saves,” Donato said. “I told the guys after the game that I just feel humbled to be a part of it. I was just very, very proud of our effort and our perseverance.”
Harvard now sits 15th in the PairWise Rankings with a chance next weekend to earn its first conference championship and NCAA tournament berth since 2006.
—Crimson staff writer Michael D. Ledecky can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @mdledecky.