Eight down, eight to go!
Tonight’s matchup between the Ottawa Senators and New York Rangers came with high stakes. Win, and the Senators move on to the final four. Lose, and the Rangers push a game seven heading back to Ottawa. The Sens came out blazing, taking the game by a score of 4-2, closing out the New York Rangers in six games.
The Senators took control early, with Mike Hoffman putting the team up 1-0 five minutes in. Erik Karlsson took the shot from the point, with the tip by Hoffman fooling Henrik Lundqvist and putting a hush to an ecstatic Madison Square Garden.
A big part of tonight’s win was the Sens’ penalty kill, fighting off three Rangers power plays, including a double minor high-sticking call on Derick Brassard midway through the first. The Rangers were getting shots off, although would most be held to the outside and with minimal lead-up movement. Maybe it was just a dead power play from the Rangers, although the Sens held their ground.
Ottawa extended their lead to 2-0 later in the frame, with Mark Stone pulling the trigger on Lundqvist’s short side. It was a perfect shot, although this goal is also a demonstration of Stone’s incredible mind. If you watch the replay below, you can see Stone look directly at MacArthur, as if he’s going to make a pass. The look, as well as the way the puck is positioned on the blade of his stick, completely fools Lundqvist who makes a small gesture anticipating a pass. Stone shoots instead, and Lundqvist, knowing he’s been deceived, can only look to the sky in exasperation.
The goal was reviewed for offside, and it looked impossibly close to tell given the frame rate of the replay. I thought for sure it would be inconclusive (which would’ve still resulted in a goal), although the referee announced it as being confirmed onside.
Period one ended 2-0, forty minutes away from the Eastern Conference Finals.
The second period was mostly back and forth, with the halfway mark still remaining a two-goal game. If this series has taught us anything, though, it’s that no lead is ever safe. The Rangers would strike next, by the player we were all fearing would score eventually: Mika Zibanejad. Completely left off the radar of Phaneuf and Ceci, Z-Bad was sent in on a breakaway that resulted in a goal.
With the Rangers desperately trying to push the game to a tie, the pace would pick up significantly from that point on for both teams. Bobby Ryan led a rush into the offensive zone and went behind the net, feeding a pass to a pinching Erik Karlsson. Left uncovered by Brady Skjei, the captain made no mistake, regaining the two goal lead.
Period two ended 3-1, twenty minutes away from the Eastern Conference Finals!
No win has come easy for the Senators these playoffs, and today’s match took no exception. Score effects kicked in big time, as the Sens began to sit back on their lead. 53 seconds in, Chris Kreider would pick up a bouncing puck, and with Cody Ceci completely lost, he would bust in on a breakaway. The fast goal gave life to the Rangers, who became even more desperate to tie it.
Shot attempts in the third period were 17-5 in New York’s favour, although Craig Anderson would play the hero for the remainder of the game. He made crucial stop after crucial stop, leading to Lundqvist being pulled in the final minute and a half. The Rangers would crank up the fire hose as much as they could, although a simple neutral zone turnover put the dagger in, with none other than Jean-Gabriel Pageau scoring goal number six of this series.
The clock ticked down, the goal horn sounded, and both teams lined up for handshakes. Period three ended 4-2, with the Ottawa Senators heading to the Eastern Conference Finals!!!!!
- Erik Karlsson earned first-star honours this game, picking up the winning goal as well as the assist to Hoffman. He did much much more than just that though, with hockey fans from all over the world fawning over Karlsson’s play.
- Craig Anderson also stood on his head tonight, bailing out a porous defence that allowed 39 shots against. This was the #BeastMode we’ve been looking for.
- Looking rejuvenated tonight was Mark Stone, whose celebration after his goal confirmation was priceless. Two point night for Stoner.
- Clarke MacArthur picked up a couple points tonight as well, both assists, and served as a key component to the offensive unit.
- Despite taking the loss, Henrik Lundqvist played a key part in keeping this game close.
- Rick Nash also picked up six shots on goal tonight, the most of either team.
- I mentioned the defence was noticeably porous tonight, and Cody Ceci was the biggest part of that, losing coverage numerous times on the Rangers’ forwards.
- If you didn’t think Chris Neil could play less than his 2:26 in game five, you were wrong. Neil’s (lack of) deployment once again remained a mystery, being brought down to a total 1:49 on the evening. Make what you will of it, but his contribution on the ice tonight was basically zero.
It’s the Eastern Conference Finals!!! The Sens will play either the Pittsburgh Penguins or Washington Capitals, who play game seven tomorrow night at 7:30 PM. Either way, Ottawa will not have home ice advantage. Tickets go on sale tomorrow at 2:00 PM.
Eight down, eight to go!!!