Robin Lehner could be excused if he had a little case of the jitters, playing in Madison Square Garden for the first time, while staring down the ice at one of his goaltending heros in Henrik Lundqvist. After his team took a 2-0 lead, the jitters looked to show up as he allowed two questionable goals to let the Rangers back into the game. However he settled down after that, and shut the door the rest of the way and countryman Jakob Silfverberg netted the winner with less than 5 minutes left to give the Senators a much needed 3-2 road win over the Rangers.
Lehner made 33 stops, many on quality scoring chances in the early part of the third period with the game tied at 2. Zack Smith and Patrick Wiercioch each scored their second goals of the season to put the Sens up 2-0 before the hiccup by Lehner allowed the Rangers back in.
Ottawa jumped out to a quick start, with Smith getting his second goal in as many games, deflecting Sergei Gonchar‘s point shot past Lundqvist. This happened just 6:18 in, but even that early John Tortorella didn’t like what he was seeing and used his timeout to settle his club. Wiercioch wristed a point shot through traffic and Lundqvist to put the Sens up 2 just over 4 minutes later, and it looked like it wasn’t going to be the Rangers night. However, the answered back just 13 seconds later when Rick Nash‘s shot from the slot went off the stick of a Senators’ defenseman and fooled Lehner. New York tied it up before the period was out, when Brad Richards‘ shot from the side boards got over Lehner’s shoulder. The Senators were without Chris Phillips for the last 6+ minutes of the first and the first 12+ minutes of the second after a scuffle with Michael Haley, where he was given a minor for instigating, a second one for instigating while wearing a visor, plus the 5 and 10.
Ottawa had a very good road period in the second, hemming the Rangers in their own end on multiple occasions but couldn’t get one. Michael Del Zotto had the Rangers’ best chance, but his shot on the open net rang off the post. Kyle Turris had an up and down period, getting pushed around off the puck, but then making a great between-the-legs move to get around Anton Stralman and draw a penalty while driving the net. The shots were even at 22, and the score even at 2 through 2.
Ottawa was on their heels for the first few minutes of the third period, and Lehner was called on to make 3 or 4 tough saves, most notably robbing Derek Stepan from the slot after a Phillips turnover. A shift from the Daniel Alfredsson line changed the momentum of the game about 6 minutes in, and Ottawa turned on the pressure a little bit. They maintained that pressure for a number of shifts and it culminated with Eric Gryba one-timing an Alfredsson pass off the crossbar during a dominant shift with about 8 minutes left. The pressure finally paid off when Silfverberg picked up a rebound and flipped it past Lundqvist to put Ottawa back on top with 4:40 remaining. Mika Zibanejad and Erik Condra had great chances to double the lead but both failed to beat Lundqvist
- Daniel Alfredsson is willing this team to victory. The last two games he has seemed to take the team on his shoulders and the team has taken his cue, even more than before.
- Zach Smith looked about 200 lbs lighter skating between Alfredsson and Milan Michalek, finally getting the monkey off his back, scoring for the first time in 363 days on Wednesday in Toronto.
- Marc Methot was great, playing 27 minutes largely due to the Phillips penalties, which are still mind-boggling as to how the officials reasoned it.
- You can’t understate how important it was to win this one, and in regulation. It moves the Senators four points up on the 8th place Rangers, and at least 5 points clear of 9th (pending the outcome of the Winnipeg/Florida matchup still in progress at the time of this writing).
SENSHOT’S PLAYER OF THE GAME
Apart from a 5 minute span in the first period, Robin Lehner was calm, cool and collected and showed why he has the demeanor to be a star of the future in the Sens crease. He made 33 saves and outduelled his hero in their first meeting.
Ottawa has the weekend off, andwill be waiting at home for a matchup against the red-hot Boston Bruins.