Leading 1-0 a little less than halfway through the second period, the game--and the series--was Ottawa's to lose. Unfortunately, that's exactly what happened.
On a power play created by some good work from Erik Condra, the Senators' play, which had been lackadaisical once they had the lead, became downright sloppy. With the Rangers' penalty killers completely gassed, the power play--which had already struck gold once--was in great position to really put the nail in the coffin. All they had to do was gain possession. Instead, Milan Michalek took a bad angle towards Marc Staal, and compounded the bad decision by trying to reach around the Rangers defenseman to get to the puck. That's holding, Milan.
Some 4-on-4 happened, and the Sens didn't do anything with it. On the ensuing power play, Brad Richards was able to find Derek Stepan on the doorstep. Though Anderson was able to get over in time, Stepan was able to bat the puck up and over Anderson's arm.
The Rangers took the play to the Senators after that, and got the benefit of a hooking call on Filip Kuba late in the period. Kuba has been an important penalty killer for the Senators, so it was an important loss, and it was about to be magnified.
Not long after--16 seconds to be exact--Nick Foligno was assessed a goaltender interference penalty despite being checked into thinly-veiled Sens Killer Henrik Lundqvist. Now, this play was not goaltender interference by the strictest interpretation of the rule. Foligno doesn't have much of an opportunity to get out of Lundqvist's way when he's being hit from behind. But Nick Foligno's play this year isn't going to get him the benefit of the doubt from any official. If you're wondering why, watch this, this, this, or this.Guys who play on the edge don't get to complain when that edge is played against them. That's the price to pay for getting to dance on that line.
Anyway, the Kuba and Foligno penalties led to an extended 5-on-3 power play, and the Rangers were able to work the puck to a wide-open Richards. Like a pack of wolves, they slowly drew closer to Craig Anderson with every blocked shot. You could see the Senators' triangle shrinking and shrinking until the scoring chance materialized. Craig Anderson was in position to make the save, but Richards was able to take three full strides (that's charging, except the puck isn't a player so it can't be called) and absolutely rifle the puck. Can't blame the goalie for a 5-on-3 goal. Any goalie able to stop a shot like that is merely lucky, not good. Or has mongoose genes spliced into them. I don't know.
A stunned and frustrated Sens team then proceeded to make a bad neutral zone turnover. Jason Spezza did not get the puck deep, and Marc Staal was able to feed Stepan, who had the freedom to barge deep into the Senators' zone. Spezza's indecision on whether to change or get back and defend allowed Chris Krieder to walk in undefended. Stepan found him, and Kreider found the open net.
And that was the game. Three goals in the second period for the Rangers gave them a lead that they would be able to protect. The Senators would have their chances in the third, and added a late, controversial Jason Spezza goal, but a comeback is a difficult proposition when New York is willing to put five bodies in the way of a shot if that's what it takes.
Despite the missed opportunity, the Senators have one more chance to close out the series. They've proven they can beat New York already. Their last chance will come in game seven on Thursday.
(read on for heroes and zeroes...)
Sens Hero: Chris Neil
Was an assist away from the Gordie Howe hat trick tonight. Neil played with the intensity needed to win an elimination game; it's too bad more of his teammates didn't follow his lead.
Oh Ah Silfverberg! Say where was Silfverberg?
See what I did there? The much-hyped prospect had a decent debut, but also took an unpleasant boarding penalty. He has speed to spare and a great shot, though we didn't get to see it tonight, but overall he looked like a rookie playing in his first game.
Sens Zero: Discipline
The officiating in this game was not good. More on that in a second. But the team didn't make their own lives easier by giving the officials plenty of reason to make calls against them. Maybe they were riding the adrenaline rush too much; maybe they were just trying too hard to get a goal. I don't know. I do know at the end of the day, the team only has themselves to blame for the opportunities they missed.
Sens Killer: Henrik Lundqvist
And on the opportunities they didn't miss... there was Lundqvist.
Sens Killer: Offciating
It was bad all around, don't misunderstand me. But I felt the Senators got the short end of an already short stick. The lead referee in this game was none other than Tim Peel, who can be seen in this clip avoiding Erik Karlsson, the game after head coach Paul MacLean told the media that Peel's officiating partner, Dan O'Rourke, had not made a call because Erik Karlsson was a "diver."
Here's our own Ryan Classic on exactly what Peel brings to the NHL:
I'm just sick of Tim Peel.
Every game he refs, he fucks a team over. He’s so unprofessional. He doesn’t deserve this job, and he really doesn't deserve to be in the playoffs. In a season and playoff of terrible refereeing, he’s the worst.
I’ve never seen him call a good game. Ever. There are how many NHL referees, 32? 36? 50% of the time I’m watching a game in the regular season and I see a horrific blown call, I check the boxscore and see #20 is on the ice.
Senators didn’t deserve to win. But nobody deserves Tim Peel.