It’s even-Steven and on to Ottawa Saturday for Game 5 of the Second Round.
Rallying from a two-game deficit inflicted in Canada, the Rangers held serve last night at The Garden and have turned this second round series into a genuine thriller-diller.
With Game 5 coming up at Canadian Tire Centre in Kanata, Ontario, the Blueshirts must maintain the double-win momentum generated in Manhattan and now translate it to foreign ice.
OVERVIEW: Slowly, but relentlessly, the Blueshirts built up a three-goal lead heading into the third period. They protected Henrik Lundqvist sufficiently so as to enter the final frame in reasonable enough shape to prevail. Once again Brendan Smith and Brady Skjei supported King Henrik while captain Ryan McDonagh and veteran workhorse Dan Girardi maintained decorum behind the blue line. Jetting to Ottawa, the Blueshirts now have an opportunity for their third straight victory. They now have four cohesive lines with the Tanner Glass-Lindberg-J.T. Miller trio a constant threat. Now the question will be whether the Blueshirts can maintain the positive momentum in Canada.
WHAT WENT RIGHT:
1. DREADED THREE-GOAL LEAD UN-DREADED: Always a threat to lull the three-goal leaders into softening their game, the dreaded three goal lead was reduced by the tenacious Blueshirts into to a lesser threat so as to secure the victory.
2. AN OSCAR FOR LINDBERG: Maybe he’s on the fourth line, but the Sweet Swede continues to perform like a first line sharpshooter. He and linemates Glass and Miller have a become a machine of perfectly meshing gears.
3. STRONG GLASS: Notorious for his belligerence, Glass continues to maintain his effectiveness, checking hard and producing two assists for linemate Lindberg. He punctuated his performance with a last-minute fight that thoroughly delighted the capacity crowd. He also flattened Jean-Gabriel Pageau hard enough to encourage and enthuse his mates.
4. HIS MAJESTY MAJESTIC: The inevitable Senators third period push was blunted by Lundqvist with a superior save on Mark Stone six minutes into the third period. He finally permitted a goal late in the period which reduced his club’s lead to three. Putting a finish on his performance, King H stopped Jean-Gabriel Pageau on a late third period breakaway.
5. NOTORIOUS NASH: Employing his extra physicality to advantage, Rick Nash excelled both offensively and defensively.
6. IN THE NICK OF TIME: The first period always is vital but more so in this game with the home club so desperate to tie the series. Underrated backliner Holden opened the scoring with a deft deke of a goal past Craig Anderson after a nifty feed from Michael Grabner.
7. A MILLER’S TALE: Although he has been skimpy on the goal-scoring sheet, Miller has been sterling as the third man on the Glass-Lindberg last-line-of-offense.
8. FOR KREIDER OUT LOUD: With little fuss or fanfare, Kreider steadily has asserted his presence. It paid off in the third period with the fourth — cushion — goal on the Rangers power play. It was his second goal of the playoffs.
9. MAINTAINING MOMENTUM: Following the overwhelming offensive in Game 3, Alain Vigneault‘s skaters were challenged to carry that momentum into Game 4. They succeeded — forced Guy Boucher to yank goalie Craig Anderson after the second period in favor of Mike Condon — and now are in position to ride that positive wave into Canada.
10. FRUSTRATED FOE: By the third period, the Senators appeared more and more frustrated, committing unforced penalties including Bobby Ryan sucker-punching Girardi which was followed by assorted cheap-shots right to the final buzzer.
TURNING POINT: Lindberg’s second goal of the middle period provided the Rangers with a three-goal lead with less than half the game to play. Under the circumstances, it was an uphill battle for the visitors that proved insurmountable.
WHAT WENT THEY SAID:
1. GUY BOUCHER: “We had a much better first period, but they (Rangers) capitalized on checks that they got and they got the goal. We just missed the net. The Rangers played well at home for their two games just like we played well at home for our first two games. I pulled Craig Anderson for the third period just to give him a rest. We go back home and now it’s a two out of three series. Going back home, we have lineup options to choose from.”
2. ALAIN VIGNEAULT: “This is a tough series and we have to be disciplined. Nick Holden made a good play on that first goal. Our four lines have to play together. We’re turning the page on this one; have a couple of meetings and head for Ottawa. In today’s game, you need four lines. Lindberg’s line came up big. If you expect to win, you need contributions from everyone; which we got tonight.”
3. FORMER NHLER AND CURRENT TV ANALYST JEREMY ROENICK: “Chris Kreider has been coming on and played a strong game.”
4. NICK HOLDEN: “From the start of the series through the second game, I felt we played well but the results weren’t there. But we came home and played well defensively and pushed the puck offensively. We played our game and slowed down their top guys. We got pucks in deep, and on the first goal, Kevin got the pass to me and after passing back-and-forth [and] I fired the shot into the net. It’s a play we work on in practice that never seems to work, so I guess it’s lucky that it went in there. In the last couple of games, we made sure we didn’t take our foot off the gas.”
5. MICHAEL GRABNER: “We weren’t happy after the first two games, but emotions take over the longer a series goes. We have four lines that can score goals as well as play shutdown defense. They get in on the forecheck and we’ve been rolling four lines pretty solidly. When you look at the last Stanley Cup-winners, they have guys who can score on the third and fourth lines. We go day to day and game to game.”
6. TANNER GLASS: “Every bump counts. It’s like making a deposit in the bank. If you put enough in one day you’re going to be happy and take it out when you need it.”
Tanner Glass speaks about the effective play of the fourth line and what the Rangers cleaned up in the last two games against the Sens.
7 DAN GIRARDI: “We stayed within our structure. Everyone works together to keep Ottawa to the outside. That makes it easier for Hank to make the first save; when he sees it.”
8 MATS ZUCCARELLO: “One of our strengths all year has been having the four lines that can play against anyone and score goals.”
9. CRAIG ANDERSON: “They (Rangers) are a good hockey team. They came out and played their game to a T. They had the fans; they had the momentum and we just weren’t able to get anything going.”
10. OSCAR LINDBERG: “Our line has been doing a really good job getting pucks back from the forecheck. We had two good chances and were able to bear down.”
COMING ATTRACTIONS: Game 5 is Saturday at 3 p.m. in Ottawa (NBCSN). MSG Networks will have complete post game coverage.
BOTTOM LINE: The Rangers — at least at home — have been able to play their game. Employing four solid lines has effectively frustrated the Senators. Whether they can sustain that momentum will define the series on Saturday and then on Tuesday at The Garden.