Power play lifts Rangers to Game 7
For a series that many predicted New York would win in five, playing a Game 6 in Ottawa — and trailing in the series — must have seemed like uncharted territory to the Rangers and the prognosticators. The Rangers were in a do-or-die situation, backs against the wall, no tomorrow. Regardless of which cliché you prefer, 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 7:05 into the first period. The Senators have had to make adjustments to get more shots through traffic, and having two big bodies in front of the Rangers net caused problems. Ultimately, however, it was the power play that in the end hurt the Senators.
On a night Ottawa was 1 for 5 on the power play, the Rangers were 2 for 7 a man up. And that additional 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.”
That goal was scored by Derek Stepan, his first this postseason, on a beautiful backdoor feed by Brad Richards on a power play at 8:55 of the second period. Although he had three points in the first five games, there were whispers Richards needed to contribute more. He did so again about eight minutes later when he netted his second goal of the postseason, giving the Rangers their first lead of the game — again on the power play, a 5-on-3 edge. New York took advantage of some undisciplined Ottawa play and made them pay for it.
“It’s been the difference in the games,” Richards said. “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 with 41 seconds left in the second period. It gave New York a two-goal lead and turned a 1-0 deficit after the first period to a 3-1 lead with 20 minutes to play.
From there, Lundqvist 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 find the net. 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.”
Said Rangers forward Brandon Prust: “That is the way we have to play; we have to play desperate hockey. 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 it already has won twice at MSG. But can it win a third time on the road, in the playoffs? And while New York has the momentum now, how confident are the Rangers when they know they aren’t invincible in their own building?
“Flip a coin,” Ottawa 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.