Rangers 4, Senators 2
New York leads best-of-seven series 1-0
NEW YORK — The way Ottawa Senators coach Paul MacLean saw it, his team only played about six bad minutes, from 16:24 of the second period to 2:15 of the third.
In that span, the New York Rangers scored three goals to break up what had been a tight 1-0 game, and then held on for a 4-2 win, giving them a 1-0 lead in this best-of-seven Eastern Conference series.
So MacLean figures the Senators played about 54 decent minutes. It’s something to build on. That’s the bright side.
But MacLean is not deluding himself that it is anywhere near enough.
So while he’ll use those 54 minutes as something to build on Friday in practice, he’ll also be looking at those six disastrous minutes that let the Rangers take control of the game. They’ll provide important object lessons in what not to do — maybe, like, not turn the puck over so much.
“We didn’t play our best,” said MacLean. “We need to play better, obviously, to win.
“When you lose a game, you can always be better in all areas and all zones of the rink.”
That’s been a familiar refrain over the last two weeks. Thursday’s loss was the team’s fourth straight since it clinched a playoff spot.
Among the more pressing matters Friday will be trying to figure out what to do about the ailing power play, which was unsuccessful on three chances, and how to solve Rangers netminder Henrik Lundqvist, who made 30 saves.
Daniel Alfredsson and Erik Condra were the only Senators to beat him, but by that point, in the second half of the third period, the game was over.
Ryan Callahan, Marian Gaborik, Brian Boyle, and Brad Richards had already scored for the Rangers.
Other than those six horrible minutes for Ottawa, the other critical moment was a timeout Rangers coach John Tortorella called halfway through the second with his team ahead 1-0 and the Senators pressing for the tying goal.
“We were in our zone for awhile but we didn’t let in anything against us and (Lundqvist) made a few big saves,” said Rangers defenceman Dan Girardi. “It gave us a second to calm down and get ourselves going the other way.”
The Senators dressing room was particularly sombre afterward, but all they could do was try to seize the few positives.
“It’s one of those things where we make a couple of crucial mistakes and they end up in the back of our net,” said Senators centre Jason Spezza.
“When it was 4-0, it wasn’t really a 4-0 game, but we make a few mistakes that make it a 4-0 game.
“That’s where we need to draw from experience now and learn from what we did (Thursday night). When it’s a 1-0 hockey game, it’s a pretty good game and maybe you can make the argument that we were taking the play to them a little bit.
“Then they score some key goals and we’re back on our heels a little bit. It’s part of the learning process and now we’ll know what to expect next game.”
WHY THEY LOST
They had their chances, trailing 1-0 early in the second period and blessed with power plays, but couldn’t maintain the pressure against the Rangers. Once the Rangers got control back late in the second period, they didn’t let go.
Henrik Lundqvist, Rangers
The King of New York lived up to his nickname, turning aside everything until late goals from Daniel Alfredsson and Erik Condra late in the third period. Lundqvist’s best work came in the second period, including a partial breakaway off Jason Spezza.
Senators power play
Ottawa can’t whine about the officiating. It had its chances to tie the game 1-1, but had no answers to beat Lundqvist with the man advantage. The Rangers picked up the pace after the Senators failed to get a single shot during one power play and scored two late second-period goals.
THE POWER OF A TIME OUT
Before leaving Ottawa on Tuesday, Senators coach Paul MacLean said a coach’s ability to deal with momentum was huge.
Enter JohnTortorella on Thursday. With the Senators pushing hard to tie the game 1-1, the Rangers’ coach called a timeout. The tide turned and a few minutes later, the Rangers were in control, leading 3-0 at the second intermission.
KARLSSON TAKES HIS LICKS
See Erik. Hit Erik. Slow down Erik. The Rangers’ game plan worked perfectly. They must must have felt like they had won the lottery when the 6-7, 244-pound Brian Boyle facewashed the 6-0, 180-pound Karlsson during a Senators first-period power play and both received minor penalties.
Karlsson’s long night included a mental lapse in the third period when he passed the puck directly to Brandon Dubinsky in the slot. Fortunately for the Senators, Dubinsky hit the post.
Sure, the opening goal went to Ryan Callahan, but only seconds earlier Erik Condra got a taste of what NHL playoff hockey is all about, dripping blood over his left eye after being smacked into the glass by Brad Richards.
STATS OF THE NIGHT
Craig Anderson went into the game with a 6-0 record at Madison Square Garden, but after Callahan’s opening goal, the numbers were on the Rangers’ side. They won 86 per cent of their games in the regular season when they scored first.
MISSED IT BY THAT MUCH
Sharp defensive play or luck? With the game still scoreless, Spezza slipped behind Ryan McDonagh, but McDonagh made a last- second poke-check to prevent a breakaway. … Good thing for the Senators that it was Brandon Prust who stepped out of the penalty box in the first period with a partial breakaway and not Marian Gaborik. Chris Phillips easily caught Prust.
With the game out of hand in the third period, the officials separated Chris Neil and Mike Rupp near the players’ benches and sent them to the penalty box.
What are the chances we see the two get more involved as the series goes on? Neil was busy throwing his weight around on the shift leading up to Erik Condra’s late goal.
TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE
As is custom when the Senators trail late, MacLean re-united Daniel Alfredsson on the top line with Jason Spezza and Milan Michalek. Alfredsson, who had been largely invisible to that point, responded by deflecting a shot over Lundqvist’s shoulder.
If nothing else, it gives the Senators some hope they can beat Lundqvist. Our only question. Why did it take so long for MacLean to make the change?
Maybe, just maybe, the late goals from Alfredsson and Condra will put some doubt in the Rangers’ minds leading up to Game 2.