GREENBURGH, N.Y. – The New York Rangers expect the Senators to make adjustments after taking a 1-0 lead over Ottawa in their first-round playoff series.
The Rangers, the top seed in the Eastern Conference, know they need to be prepared with Ottawa looking to refocus after a 4-2 loss in Game 1 on Thursday night. The Rangers and Senators play Game 2 on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden.
“Both teams make adjustments, that just the way the playoffs are,” Rangers forward Brandon Dubinsky said. “I think the biggest adjustment we have to make is (making) sure we’re better in the next game. We expect them to be better.”
The Rangers, who have won 20 of 22 playoff matchups in which they took a 2-0 series lead, are hoping to take control of the series before it shifts to Ottawa for Game 3. The Senators are 7-5 all-time in playoff series when they have split the first two games.
Ottawa was a better team on the road than at home this season. The Senators finished with a 21-14-6 road record, while their 20-17-4 mark at Scotiabank Place ranked 24th in the NHL.
“We have to anticipate that they are going to come really hard, so we have to be prepared to match their intensity,” Dubinsky said. “Anytime you play on the road, you try to get one of the two (games). I’m sure that’s going to be on their mind.”
The biggest adjustment for the Senators will be trying to free up Milan Michalek’s line from Rangers defencemen Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh. Michalek, centre Kyle Turris and right wing Erik Condra combined for a goal, two assists and were even against the Rangers’ top defensive pair in Game 1. But the line’s production came after the game had long been decided.
“(McDonagh) and (Girardi) have done a great job against top lines all year,” said Rangers defenceman Michael Del Zotto.
Girardi recorded an assist and was plus-one in 26:41 of ice time Thursday night, while McDonagh played 25:04.
“They find each other pretty easily,” McDonagh said of the Senators’ top line. “You can think you’re in good position but they can thread the needle with passes and find some open space.”
Condra committed one of Ottawa’s eight giveaways in Game 1, and the Senators acknowledged after the loss that the Rangers capitalized on their mistakes.
“We need to be better through the neutral zone to get more possession in their end,” defenceman Sergei Gonchar said. “We know we have to be better on Saturday.”
Production from the NHL’s 11th-ranked power play would also be welcome. Ottawa was unable to take advantage of its three man advantages in the loss, generating just three shots.
“I think our power play could be better,” said coach Paul MacLean.
Despite the loss, there was an extended bright spot for the Senators. Ottawa seemed to control the game over the final 10 minutes of the first period and the first 10 minutes of the second following Ryan Callahan’s series-opening goal.
“I thought it was a pretty even game then we kind of got off our game plan for a little bit for a few minutes and it’s 4-0,” Jason Spezza said. “I’m looking forward to the next game.”
Ottawa took 18 of its 32 shots in the game during that 20-minute span but was unable to break through with Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist displaying the form that has made him a front-runner for the Vezina Trophy.
Lundqvist stopped all 18 of Ottawa’s shots during that stretch and finished with 30 saves. A majority of Ottawa’s shots came from the perimeter, which allowed Lundqvist ample time to get into position.
“I think we need to try to get a little more traffic,” Spezza said. “They’re going to block a lot of shots but we’ve got to try to get some more bodies in front of (Lundqvist). When he can see it, he’s one of the best. We’ve just got to keep pounding the puck on him, keep bodies in front of him and just try to make it harder for him to see pucks.”