Senators exceeded expectations, but missed opportunity hurts

Next season won’t come soon enough for this group of Ottawa Senators.

Senators exceeded expectations, but missed opportunity hurts

NEW YORK — At the beginning of this season, not many thought the Ottawa Senators would even get to the playoffs, let alone to a Game 7 against the No. 1-seed team in the Eastern Conference.

So that’s some consolation for Ottawa, a bit of salve.

But in the end, it’s not near enough for a team that believed it had a chance to go much further, so this 2-1 loss to the New York Rangers will hurt.

Next season won’t come soon enough for this group of Ottawa Senators.

With the victory, the Rangers advance and meet the No. 7-seeded Washington Capitals in the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.

Daniel Alfredsson, in his 111th playoff game for the Senators, and maybe his last, scored for the Senators on the power play.

“It’s an empty feeling,” said Alfredsson. “Especially when the game goes down to the last seconds, like it did tonight. We hurt. It’s tough. We played a hard-fought game.

“We played really good at times, (made) a couple of mistakes that kind of cost us, then Henrik (Lundqvist) made some good saves in the third to keep it a one-goal game.”

Alfredsson, 39, said he hasn’t begun to think about his future, but will address the issue over the next little while and decide if he’s able to play another season.

Marc Staal and Dan Girardi scored for the Rangers.

Craig Anderson faced 29 shots for the Senators, while Henrik Lundqvist played a spectacular game, making 26 saves.
Anderson initially left the ice without shaking hands but quickly realized he’d better get back out.

“It was a mind fart on my part,” he said. “Nothing intentional at all.”

But that was the only thing that brought the semblance of a smile to his face. He was as disappointed as anyone in the room.

“We’ve gotten this far this year and we know the feeling,” he said. “Last year we knew the feeling of not making the playoffs.

“This feeling doesn’t feel any better because we lost, but we were able to enjoy the game for a couple of weeks longer than we were last year.

“We’re going to have a fresh start next year. Every game of experience is going to help for the guys going forward. We’re already looking forward to next season.”

The Rangers broke the scoreless tie in the second period and jumped to a 2-0 lead in the first 10 minutes thanks to mistakes from Ottawa’s two rookie defenceman, Jared Cowen and Erik Karlsson.

Cowen made the first mistake in the fifth minute by moving up to drive Ranger captain Ryan Callahan into the boards. It was an untimely decision. When the puck popped loose to Derek Stepan, Cowen was caught and the Rangers were off on a 3-on-1.
Stepan put a pass through Sergei Gonchar’s legs to Staal, who had an open left side.

Asked if the pass was lucky or skilful, Stepan said, “It was a little bit of both.”

Four minutes later, Karlsson gave Girardi an opening when he moved away from the front of the net to help with coverage in the right corner. That left no one to watch Girardi, who skated in toward the left post unmarked and found an open left side on Anderson.

Before it got out of control, Alfredsson cut the lead to 2-1 two minutes later with a power-play goal, beating Lundqvist on the short side with a shot from the top of the left circle. It looked as if Anton Stralman was screening Lundqvist, or else it was a very bad goal.

There wasn’t much to pick between the teams in the first period, except that the Senators had the advantage of the lone power play when Brandon Dubinsky got caught for holding Jason Spezza.

The power play didn’t score, but at least it created some chances, giving the team some momentum for the final five minutes.
Otherwise, both teams had terrific chances. Among the best: Marian Gaborik chipping a sure goal just wide, and Ranger defenceman Dan Girardi blocking a clear shot from Filip Kuba.

The Senators closed out the period with about 45 seconds of uninterrupted time in the Ranger zone. It looked as if they were on another power play. The only thing that saved them was Lundqvist, who took one shot off the top of his head.

Rangers coach John Tortorella was a long time leaving the bench when the buzzer sounded, and when he did he was shaking his head.

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