Inside the Series: Conspiracies, inconsistencies, threats and lineup questions

Good thing there’s an extra day between games before Thursday’s series-clinching Game 7 in New York, allowing us to sort through all the assorted side issues.

Good thing there’s an extra day between games before Thursday’s series-clinching Game 7 in New York, allowing us to sort through all the assorted side issues.

Let’s call them the games between the games as microscopes are being trained on what was seen and microphones are being mined to determine what was, or might have been, said during and after the Rangers’ 3-2 Game 6 victory.

First off, Henrik Lundqvist suggested there was an anti-Rangers conspiracy after video review held up Jason Spezza’s goal with 39 seconds remaining and the Senators are wondering whether Nick Foligno is a marked man if he comes within sniffing distance of the Rangers netminder.

On top of that, the Rangers were looking at video evidence that Milan Michalek kicked Dan Girardi during the battle in front, leading up to Spezza’s goal. The Rangers also suggested that Chris Neil delivered a not-so-subtle threat of retaliation to Michael del Zotto, after Del Zotto hit him with a high hit behind the Rangers net during the game.

In addition, there’s also some intrigue surrounding the health of key players on both teams. The Rangers, like the Senators, didn’t practice on Tuesday, but there was an unsubstantiated report out of New York that captain Ryan Callahan had possibly broken a finger while blocking a Chris Phillips shot. Here, at home, Kyle Turris, who left the game briefly in the first period after blocking a Ryan McDonagh shot, was spotted limply slightly as he left Scotiabank Place.

Let’s deal with each issue in turn:

— Lundqvist was still wired up after the game, incensed that Spezza’s goal was allowed to stand. “When it’s such an obvious play, goalie interference and a kick, and they still call it a goal, it scares me that someone can call that,” said Lundqvist, who smashed his stick on the crossbar when the video ruling came down. “Someone wants them back in the game, obviously, because there’s no other explanation.” The league will analyze his words carefully, with the possibility of a fine for implying the league holds a bias against a particular team. Back in January, Rangers coach John Tortorella was fined $20,000 when he claimed that the referees called a penalty shot for Philadelphia’s Daniel Briere in the final minute of the Winter Classic, because there was a deal between the NHL and NBC.

— Foligno, meanwhile, says he’s unsure what he could have done differently, leading up to the goalie interference call he received for falling into Lundqvist after being bumped by Girardi. The penalty resulted in a 5-on-3 manpower edge for the Rangers and Brad Richards took advantage to score the tie-breaking goal. “Some referees are really good in talking to you, but there are other guys who, for whatever reason, won’t say a word to you,” he said. “I understand they’re going to protect Henrik Lundqvist, but at the same time, it’s not a fair play, where I’m getting pushed in. If it’s anyone else, is it a penalty?” Senators coach Paul MacLean wasn’t complaining about the officiating Monday, claiming that “I’m not trying to do their job, mine is hard enough”. He also said his team needs to show better discipline in general. “You can’t take seven minor penalties and expect to win.”

—  Michalek is fortunate to have escaped punishment. NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan telephoned Senators GM Bryan Murray, saying that similar incidents in the future wouldn’t be tolerated. If there was kicking, it didn’t show up during the CBC broadcast, but the NHL has previously suspended Anaheim’s Bobby Ryan and Carolina’s Jeffrey Skinner two games each for kicking. Michalek wasn’t available for comment Tuesday.

— Neil, disappointed following the loss, was asked about his reaction to the Del Zotto hit and replied, “I’m sure I’ll catch him with his head down, one of these times.” If nothing else, Neil can expect to the subject of endless abuse from Rangers fans. Neil’s devastating open ice hit knocked Brian Boyle out of Game 5 of the series with a concussion. Tortorella, in yet another brief conference call on Tuesday, offered no comment on either the Michalek or Neil controversies.

— There were no injury updates for either team Tuesday, but both teams are scheduled to practice Wednesday. The Senators will leave for New York Wednesday afternoon.

SILFVERBERG, STONE, OR ANOTHER SURPRISE?

While the Senators have heard plenty of second guessing about their decision to rush Jakob Silfverberg into the lineup for Game 6, MacLean liked what he saw from the 21-year-old Swede. “I thought he played fine, and he’s only going to get better,” said MacLean.

Silfverberg played 9:02, including 55 seconds on the power play and had one shot on goal — five seconds into his first shift.

When pressed on the reasons behind the decisions for Game 6 and Game 7, he said, “we’re trying to make our team as good as we can make it,” while also keeping in mind that the organization is trying to improve for the future.

BOYLE IS GONE, BUT STEPAN ARRIVES

Derek Stephan discovered his scoring touch just in time for the Rangers in Game 6, scoring once and adding a pair of assists, but he says he felt like he was going to break out because of how he played in Game 6.

“I got a little bit of a monkey off my back, which is good,” he said. “It’s tough, you’re gripping the stick and having a tough time scoring, it’s definitely a big relief to find the back of the net. And not only that, our power play gets a lift from it, too, and that’s two pretty important things right there.”

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