For one period it looked like the Ottawa Senators might make a game of it and keep the dying embers of playoff hopes alive for another day. Then, they came out in the second period and threw a huge bucket of cold water on those hopes and extinguished them for good (if you actually believed they were still alive heading in.)
It was a fast start, with some end to end action and going more than 6 minutes without a whistle. Mike Hoffman opened the scoring just before the 7 minute mark when he stepped into a pass from Erik Condra just inside the blue line and wired a slapshot past Henrik Lundqvist. Ottawa got a power play right after that, and it looked like they were primed to take an early stranglehold. However, Hoffman was playing the point with the man advantage and misplayed a puck at the Rangers blue line. This bobble allowed Rick Nash to steal the puck and go on on a clean breakaway from his own blue line. He made no mistake, burying the shorthanded marker past Robin Lehner. Ottawa did capitalize on their next power play, with Mika Zibanejad completing a nice give and go with Jason Spezza, and after bobbling the puck in the slot for a moment went upstairs on Lundqvist to give the Senators another lead that they held to the intermission.
Derick Brassard evened it back up almost 9 minutes into the second, just after a Rangers power play expired. Carl Hagelin got the puck behind then net and fed a quick pass to Brassard that he deftly redirected past Lehner. The score remained tied for almost 7 minutes, until the roof fell in. Benoit Pouliot intercepted an errant pass from Chris Phillips to Jason Spezza in the Ottawa slot and quickly fired one to the back of the net. Less than 2 minutes later John Moore picked up a loose puck outside the Ottawa blue line and took a slapshot from the hash marks (not the ones in the middle but the ones along the boards) that beat Lehner clean to put the Rangers up 4-2. A minute later it was 5-2 as Ryan McDonagh took a shot from the point that was deflected on the way past Lehner. It was originally credited to Martin St. Louis, and they even picked up the puck for him as it was his first as a Ranger, but the boxscore now gives it to McDonagh so it must have went off a Senators player as there was a lot of traffic in front. The second period ended, as did Lehner’s night (or so we thought) with the Senators trailing 5-2.
Nathan Lawson was in the net to start the third period, and he didn’t fare much better. Milan Michalek brought the Senators within 2 early on, after a misplay at the Rangers blue line by Ales Hemsky to take it out of the zone. However, the Rangers knocked it back in to negate a potential offside call, and it went right to Michalek who put it over the shoulder of a surprised Lundqvist. But as this season has gone, one step forwards is followed by two steps back. Just over a minute after Michalek’s marker, Mats Zuccarello intercepted a clearing pass from Phillips and carried it back in on a 2 on 1. His pass to Derek Stepan was redirected in past Lawson off his skates. It was reviewed but the goal stood. Forty-five second later Brassard took a pass from Zuccarello at the lip of the crease and deposited it into the yawning cage to make it 7-3. To add injury to insult it appeared that Lawson either pulled his groin or twisted his knee on the play trying to stretch across. He did stay in the game but left about 8 minutes later following a gingerly made save and TV timeout, bringing Lehner was back in. He got the good old Bronx cheer after making his first save. Bobby Ryan had tipped an Eric Gryba shot from the point past Lundqvist. Then Paul MacLean made the curious decision to pull the goalie down by 3 with more than 3 minute left, and of course that was a recipe for failure. Playing with an empty net for more than 3 minutes is nearly impossible, and it didn’t even take that long for Rick Nash to score his second of the night to cap the scoring and make it 8-4 New York.
NOTES & OBSERVATIONS
- I don’t know if MacLean was trying to send a message, or what exactly that message was, by pulling the goalie when he did. Maybe he bet on the “way way wayyy over” option of 11.5.
- Hopefully getting Lawson out was simply a precaution and not something serious. It would be a shame to derail Binghamton’s chances at some playoff success because of an injury that occurred in such a mundane situation as the one he was put in on Tuesday.
Ottawa hosts the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday night before heading out on the road for 3 games.