NEW YORK, N.Y. – Six more minutes.
That’s all the Ottawa Senators need to return to Scotiabank Place with their first-round series against the New York Rangers tied at a game apiece.
Despite a 4-2 loss in the series opener at Madison Square Garden on Thursday, the Senators spoke with a sense of confidence after Friday’s practice at Chelsea Piers in Manhattan before Game 2.
“The feeling is still optimism,” Senators forward Jason Spezza said. “You have to be prepared to lose games to win in the playoffs. You’re not going to win them all. We’re still optimistic that we can make this a series and beat these guys. We just have to play a little better.”
Ottawa played well for much of Game 1. But there was a stretch about six minutes long late in the second period that continued into the third where they allowed the Rangers to take over the game. Some of the damage was self-inflicted, as New York made the Senators pay for their mistakes.
Marian Gaborik and Brian Boyle scored late in the second period to give the Rangers a 3-0 lead. Brad Richards added to that just 2:15 into the third period. The four-goal deficit was too much for Ottawa to overcome.
Gaborik’s goal came after a turnover in the Ottawa end and Boyle scored seconds after the Senators had killed off a power play.
“The six-minute time frame at the end of the second period and start of the third we didn’t play particularly well,” said Ottawa head coach Paul MacLean. “When momentum was on their side, we didn’t handle that momentum swing and you can’t just give up free goals where they get free opportunities. That was the part that was disappointing to us as a group. We’d like to make them earn their goals a little bit better than we did.”
Goaltender Craig Anderson echoed his coach.
“The playoffs are where everyone capitalizes on mistakes,” said Anderson, who had been 6-0 with a 1.13 goals-against average in Madison Square Garden heading into the series. “We made two too many.”
Ottawa played well for long stretches of the game, but the Rangers were the team that capitalized when mistakes were made. The Senators talked about the need to get to the net and prevent the Rangers’ defencemen from blocking shots. Some traffic in front of New York goaltender Henrik Lundqvist could only help.
“I thought there were a lot of times in the game we played real well, but we got nothing out of it,” said MacLean. “We weren’t as hard at their net as we could have been when we had momentum going our way. We didn’t generate enough scoring opportunities at their net and played a little too much outside.”
The Senators did manage to get two goals back later in the third period. Daniel Alfredsson scored at 10:05 and Erik Condra added another with 2:19 left in the game to give Ottawa something to build on for Game 2. That’s why the Sens were able to put on a happy face Friday.
“We have to make it harder on the goalie and go to the net and stay there and get lots of shots,” Senators forward Milan Michalek said. “I’m sure we’re going to do better (tonight). We want to get the win and go home with a split.”
NOTES: Alfredsson, Chris Neil, and Erik Karlsson didn’t practise Friday. MacLean said it was just to give them some rest. “Alfie didn’t practise. He’s too old to practise,” Spezza said with a laugh. “We just need him for games.”