Entering the second round series, Rangers coach Alain Vigneault heaped praise on Senators captain Erik Karlsson. He isn’t wrong. Karlsson is indeed a special player. The all world Ottawa defenseman proved it yet again in scoring the game-winning goal from an impossible angle with 4:11 left in regulation to give the Sens a 2-1 win in Game 1 over the Rangers in front of 16,744 at Canadian Tire Centre.
The goal will be replayed in Henrik Lundqvist’s head until the puck drop for Saturday’s Game 2. Beaten by his Swedish countryman, the 35-year old veteran played brilliantly. He faced 43 shots and got 41 including all 21 in a hectic first period. As great as he was, you know he’ll want Karlsson’s smart shot from below the goal line that went off Derek Stepan banking in off Lundqvist for the game decider.
A play that never should’ve happened. Simply put, the Rangers stopped playing. Something Vigneault alluded to in the post game. The five-man unit thought there was an icing. Rather than play until the whistle, they made the fatal mistake of not playing through. Stepan was the biggest culprit with a couple of lackadaisical defensive plays uncharacteristic of him. It was hideous. Along with Rick Nash’s failure to clear the zone, it resulted in disaster. With Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi pinned in, eventually Karlsson made a heady play that won the game. Here’s how it looked and sounded on CBC:
A terrific play by a great player. The key was Ottawa defenseman Marc Methot outworking Nash to keep the puck in. Eventually, it led to Mike Hoffman working the puck to Karlsson down low along the boards. With nowhere to go, his first attempt came back to him fooling a defending McDonagh. So, Karlsson just threw the puck at the net and had the good fortune of having it deflect off both Stepan and Lundqvist short side.
It was inexcusable. A tough way to lose a winnable game. Even with getting outshot 43-35, the Rangers were right there in a tightly contested third. They had their chances. Maybe it they had taken them when they led on McDonagh’s power play goal in the second, they would’ve been singing a different tune. But they blew some golden opportunities. Michael Grabner was at the center of it getting stoned by Anderson on a breakaway and also hitting a goalpost. Oscar Lindberg passed up a wide open shot for a forced pass for Grabner with a defender on him breaking it up.
The game turned on a Brady Skjei holding minor late in the second. For the first time this postseason, he struggled. He turned over the puck a couple of times and nearly beat his own goalie with a bad pass which an alert Lundqvist kicked out. They shared a chuckle at the bench during a stoppage. But Skjei’s penalty wasn’t killed off.
Lundqvist was the team’s best penalty killer. He was their only one in the first when Ottawa got whatever it wanted. They had six shots on him with glorious pointblank chances. Somehow, he stopped each including Mark Stone twice. But after killing Ottawa’s first three power plays, they couldn’t get out of the second ahead. Instead, a tough Kyle Turris high shot went off Lundqvist’s glove deflecting off Alex Burrows right to Ryan Dzingel, who went top shelf for his first of the playoffs at 18:39 to tie the score.
That goal changed everything. After an odd first in which they lost their discipline handing the dangerous Senators three power plays where they got over half their 21 shots, the Rangers escaped thanks to the brilliance of Lundqvist. The interesting aspect is they also tested Craig Anderson with 12 shots. One a Grabner break that Anderson got a piece of. Plus a huge glove save on Brendan Smith on a nice set up. He also robbed McDonagh on the Rangers first power play.
The second was much better. At one point, the shots were 9-3 in the Blueshirts’ favor. Among them was McDonagh’s power play goal for his first of the playoffs coming at 7:10 from Mats Zuccarello and Pavel Buchnevich. How did they manage to score? By winning a offensive draw and using quick passes. A Mika Zibanejad win led to Buchnevich passing up top for Zuccarello at the right point where he quickly moved the puck to an open McDonagh. He waited for Chris Kreider to get in front and fired a perfect shot through the screen beating Anderson. A well executed play. Kreider did a nice job and McDonagh got his shot through.
Things were going well. The defense was having little trouble with the Senators speed. They worked pucks out effectively for good breakouts. Unlike the first when they struggled with Ottawa coach Guy Boucher’s patient defensive 1-3-1 system. They seemed on the verge of breaking it open. But the second goal never came. Anderson made some crucial stops to give his team a chance at the comeback.
The period turned when Boucher put out Karlsson, Fredrik Claesson with checking center Jean-Gabriel Pageau on a line with Bobby Ryan and Clarke MacArthur. They went up against Zibanejad, Kreider, Buchnevich, McDonagh and Girardi. It turned into a marathon shift that lasted 90 seconds. The Sens had the Rangers on their heels. Karlsson had a shot blocked by Girardi and missed the net. But they gained so much momentum, it got the crowd revved up.
Feeding off the energy, the Sens dominated the rest of the period outshooting the Rangers 10-2 to actually lead in shots 13-11. That included Dzingel’s power play goal with Skjei off. Lundqvist was seeing the puck so well that he was making unreal stops on dangerous chances. He was on fire. It took plenty of extra effort for the Sens to finally get to him. Turris went for high glove and it leaked out a rebound which Burrows got a piece of right to Dzingel, who buried it upstairs with Lundqvist down tying the score with 1:21 left.
The Rangers got back to their game at 5-on-5 in the third. They outshot the Sens 12-9 and outchanced them. But it didn’t matter. Anderson made timely stops. With neither side budging, the game seemed destined for overtime. But a terrific shift by Karlsson changed that. The Sens took advantage of some lazy play from Stepan. Whether it should’ve been icing doesn’t matter. You always play to the whistle. Something Vigneault harped on. Nash didn’t get the puck out. The next thing you know, Karlsson did what Karlsson does, beating Lundqvist from an improbable angle off Stepan with 4:11 left. Here’s what Vigneault had to say afterwards:
The Rangers tried to tie it. They nearly did with Lundqvist on the bench for an extra attacker. But a deflection just missed its target. Eventually, Zuccarello sent a prayer that didn’t hit the net allowing the Sens to clear the zone as time expired.
BONY 3 Stars:
3rd Star-Ryan McDonagh, Rangers (power play goal-1st of playoffs-tremendous except for the goal against which wasn’t his fault or Girardi-2 shots, 6 attempts, 5 hits, 5 blocks, -1 in 30 shifts-28:21)
2nd Star-Erik Karlsson, Senators (the amazing game-winner with 4:11 left-brilliant with 5 shots, 8 attempts, 3 blocks, great defense, +1 in 28 shifts-28:54)
1st Star-Henrik Lundqvist, Rangers (41 saves including 21/21-somehow not named a star by the biased Canadian media who kiss Jonathan Toews’ ass)
Notes: Shots were 43-35 Ottawa. Attempts were 69-64 Senators. … Face-offs were close with the Sens edging the Rangers 30-29. Pageau went 6-and-2 while Turris was 11-and-9. Stepan led the Blueshirts going 13-and-7. Easily his best so far. If only the rest of his game could be found. … Rangers had 17 blocks with five from McDonagh while the Senators had 16 with Karlsson and Methot each having three. … Key stat: Giveaways NYR 10 (Girardi, McDonagh, Lundqvist-2) OTT 13 (Ceci, Harpur-3). … Hits were 37-30 Rangers with Zuccarello and Jimmy Vesey sharing the team lead with five. Burrows paced the Sens with four but it was his big assist on Dzingel’s PPG which had an impact.
… Anderson was strong in goal making 34 saves to earn the game’s number one star. … Both teams were nabbed for bench minors. … Nick Holden roughed up Stone at the end of the second. No penalties were called. It was one of Holden’s most effective games. He was active throughout getting four shots on net with two hits in 14:13 (24 shifts). Holden and Marc Staal had strong nights finishing on the plus-side in Corsi. McDonagh and Girardi were a combined minus-32 at 5-on-5. Yet played well defensively. But they spent too much time in their end. … Derick Brassard was aggressive early on testing Lundqvist with five shots in eight attempts. The player he was traded for Zibanejad also was noticeable throughout registering four shots in six attempts with four hits. … Kevin Hayes and J.T. Miller no showed. Hayes in particular was brutal. … With an assist, Buchnevich picked up his first career NHL postseason point in his fourth game. He was one of the Rangers bright spots even though he finished minus-10 in Corsi.
Lundqvist spoke about the team being good at 5-on-5. He’s right. The Rangers were dead even with the Senators in shots 28-28 at even strength. The issue was the penalties. They cannot be that undisciplined. Ottawa’s power play is too good. Even though they only scored once in four chances, they got momentum off each one. Four power plays produced one goal and 12 shots. Ultimately, the difference in the shots for. They also had three shots shorthanded.
The officiating for the most part was okay. But they did miss a blatant trip by Karlsson on Grabner with him coming in. That has to be called. You know the standard when it comes to certain players. We saw it last round. The Rangers have to be better. They cannot leave Lundqvist by himself with so many danger chances. It easily could’ve been 3 or 4-0 Ottawa in the first. But he bailed them out. It nearly resulted in a win. They must move on and be better in Game 2. Less shots against. Less undisciplined penalties. More 5-on-5 play and forecheck. Move Anderson laterally and get traffic. Cash in on their chances.