Rangers-Senators Game 2: Neil's overtime winner ties series at 1-1
"Everything is escalated for the playoffs."
This is the opening line of our recap of the first game in the series. Game two? Escalation of that escalation.
Everything started with Matt Carkner's innocent speed punching demonstration on the Rangers' Brian Boyle less than three minutes in. Frustrated with the liberties being taken on Erik Karlsson on Thursday, head coach Paul MacLean decided to sub in Carkner and Zenon Konopka for Matt Gilroy and Kaspars Daugavins. MacLean even started them in a very Peter DeBoer-esque move. Second shift of the game, Carkner approaches Boyle, talks for a moment, and then jumped him in a move that may hamper any future Lady Byng consideration.
From there it was a mess. Penalties, dirty plays, bouncing pucks, and sub-par officiating. Colour commentator Garry Galley described it as a circus, and that's about as succinct a way of putting it as you'll find. It was ugly, ugly hockey, and the score on the ice hardly seemed to matter.
But in the end, a garbage goal by Nick Foligno tied the game with 4:37 left in the third period to send it to extra minutes. The overtime lasted a mere 77 seconds before Chris Neil tallied his first-career game-winning playoff goal.
All of this is going to be overshadowed by a single incident midway through the second period. Rangers winger Carl Hagelin aimed a high elbow to the head of Daniel Alfredsson against the glass, and the Senators captain crumpled to the ice before leaving the game. The only update? That there's no update.
The now-tied series continues on Monday night in Ottawa.
UPDATE: Carl Hagelin has a hearing on Sunday afternoon regarding his hit on Alfredsson.
Sens Hero: Chris Neil
See: overtime goal.
Senators Fail: Matt Carkner
I get what Carkner was trying to do. When you're a de facto tough guy, you feel your job is to keep order and protect your team's best players. You want to be the driving force of momentum changes. This is something of a playoff historical anomaly for the Senators, normally the team who takes the punches and complains about how much opposing teams are getting away with in April. To that end, it was refreshing. That said, in no way can I condone what Carkner did. He took his team down a defenceman three minutes into a playoff game and gave the opponent a five-minute power play. He helped set a standard of poor officiating and dirty play that would continue throughout the entire game. He screwed his team. As our own Mark Parisi put it, "If he doesn't get a suspension, Shanahan has been totally nerfed"
Sens Hero: Erik Karlsson
He scored a goal while playing billiards off Michael Del Zotto's skate, and had the following stat line: 5 hits, 10 shots, and 11 shot attempts blocked/missed. And that was just in regulation. Karlsson played chippy, sometimes dirty, and fought back when opposing players tried to take him out. He's still got a ways to go before he figures out how to excel under such heavy scrutiny, but he's getting there.
Pucks Ahoy: A brief sojourn in the second period saw two pucks in play. When a puck lodged on top of the mesh at the back of the Rangers' net came loose, a confused Jesse Winchester did a double take when he realized there was more than one puck on the ice.
Super Senators Penalty Kill Hero Squad: Jesse Winchester, Erik Condra
No better pairing on the ice down a man tonight than Winchester and Condra. Both of them were lights out not just at keeping pucks away from Anderson, but bringing it all the way back down the ice… only to float a shot on a cloud at Henrik Lundqvist. A hint of sniping ability would have really helped either of the two, but they were still great. Condra played only 7:54 tonight, 5:20 of which was shorthanded.
Noteworthy Senators: Craig Anderson, Zenon Konopka, Jared Cowen
Anderson made 27 saves on 29 shots, many of which were on quirky angles and strange deflections. Konopka was a surprise starter and won many of the little battles and was 7-5 in the faceoff dot. Cowen had 4 hits (second only to noted pugilist Erik Karlsson) and fired the shot that got the overtime goal play going, all while also playing a team-high 7:02 shorthanded. Great game for the rookie.
Sens Killer: Brian Boyle
Dirty, agitating play for two games now, and to boot he scored the go ahead goal in the third period. I don't like this man.
Rangers Dead-To-Me: Carl Hagelin
Elbows Alfredsson's head into the glass. Skates away. Alfredsson gone from game, possible concussion. Potentially, maybe, hopefully not ending Alfredsson's career.
Hope They're Okay (Rangers Edition): Ryan McDonagh
Poor Ryan McDonagh. Blocks a shot in overtime with an unprotected part of his torso, has the puck deflect right onto Chris Neil's stick for the winner. Insult to injury.
Closing Thought: I'm still very concerned over Daniel Alfredsson. I hope the captain is okay. I hope he can come back this series and do one more season. But I'm nervous.