The New York Rangers were able to hold off a late charging Ottawa Senators and cling on to a 3-2 victory Monday evening in Ottawa. The series now shifts back for a Game 7 Thursday in New York.
For a series that was supposed to see the New York Rangers win in five, playing a Game 6 in Ottawa, and trailing in the series, must have seemed like uncharted territory. The Rangers were in a do or die situation, backs against the wall, no tomorrow. Whichever cliche you wanted to use, it was accurate. And halfway through the second period, it seemed like the Rangers weren’t going to be able to find the push back in their game that was needed.
Ottawa drew first blood on a power play, when Chris Neil tipped a point shot. The Senators have had to make adjustments to make sure their shots aren’t blocked and having two big bodies in front of the Ranger net caused problems. However it was the power play that in the end hurt the Senators. Some lazy play midway through the second by Ottawa led New York to get the man advantage, and changed the momentum of the game. On the night Ottawa was one-for-seven with the extra man while the Rangers were two-for-seven in that department. That one power play goal was the difference in the game.
“I think it was important that we stayed calm after the first,” Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist said.”They scored on their first power play so that was tough but we stayed confident going into the second. And then after the first goal we got a lot of confidence.”
And that goal was scored by Derek Stepan, his first this post season, on a beautiful backdoor feed by Brad Richards. Although he had three points in the first five games, there were whispers Richards needed to contribute more. He did a few minutes later when he netted his second of the post season, giving the Rangers their first lead of the game, again on the power play. New York took advantage of some undisciplined Ottawa play and made them pay for it.
“It’s been the difference in the games,” said Richards. “We did a great job in the second at drawing the penalties and that’s the difference, we capitalized and it is deflating if you don’t.”
With Ottawa reeling, Chris Kreider picked up his first NHL goal. It came in the final minute of the second period, giving New York a two goal lead going into the last 20 minutes. Lundqvist then took over. Senators coach Paul MacLean elected to bench his big three early in the third. Milan Michalek, Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson all missed a key power play and while the Sens hit the post, they could not beat Lundqvist. Ottawa managed 14 shots in the third period but did not score until Spezza put the puck in the net with less than 40 seconds to go to close the gap to one.
“It was a frustrating game,” Spezza said.” We had the lead and they get three goals pretty quick. They get a pretty questionable five-on-three and they score on that … pretty tough to come back on.”
One former NHL’er said tonight he thought the Rangers had not elevated their game since the end of the season. Ottawa has throughout the series but tonight it seemed like they could not match the level of intensity the Rangers brought to Scotia Bank Place. New York outskated Ottawa and were for the most part the team that wanted it more. When that happens, you usually come out on top.
“That is the way we have to play, we have to play desperate hockey,” Branden Prust said of his Ranger team.” And we talked about being urgent out there and I think we pretty much showed that out there.”
One more game to go and at this point there doesn’t seem to be much that differentiates the two teams. Ottawa has to be confident knowing they have already won twice at MSG; but winning a third time on the road, in the playoffs? And while New York has the momentum now, how confident are they when the know they aren’t invincible in their own building?
“Flip a coin,” Ottawa’s goalie Craig Anderson said when asked what the difference is so far in the series.
To the players, there doesn’t seem to be much else.