The last five minutes of the game proved to be the spoiler in last night’s matchup at Madison Square Garden. The Ottawa Senators turned up the heat and took away the chance of a fifth consecutive win for the New York Rangers.
Ottawa captured the first goal of the game. It started with Daniel Alfredsson finding some room in the offensive zone. Alfredsson took one shot and kept at it, but eventually passed it off to Sergei Gonchar at the left point. Gonchar rifled one off, and Zack Smith got a piece of it to tip it. With the tip and a flukey bounce of the puck off the ice the Senators tallied the first goal.
The Sens increased the lead to 2 at 10:50 in the first period. Ottawa moved quickly to get the puck out of the right low corner and up to the points. Alfredsson tipped Patrick Wiercioch’s drive from the point to put it past Henrik Lundqvist.
Coming of a rush through the neutral zone about 13 seconds later, Rangers superstar Rick Nash wristed a snap shot past Ottawa goaltender Robin Lehner. The Blueshirts did not let up after Nash’s goal. With the momentum shift, Carl Hagelin broke by Gonchar along the left boards through the neutral zone. Hagelin skated the puck into the offensive zone and passed one back to Brad Richards, tailing behind. Richards ripped a shot off and into the net to tie the game at 2-2.
The hard-fought effort of both teams continued through the second, but neither team tallied a goal in the period.
The final goal came within the closing minutes of the third period. The last five minutes, dominated by the Senators, proved devastating to a Ranger team that clawed back to tie the game and gained the legs they lacked in the opening minutes of the game. The Sens backed the Rangers into their own zone, and kept shooting. Finally, Jakob Silfverberg capitalized on the rebound and roofed the puck over the right shoulder of Lundqvist. Regulation time ended, and the Senators pocketed the win to make it the first road, regulation win since their prior 3-1 win on January 24th against the Florida Panthers.
“In the start of the third, we had the better looks and slowly but surely they started to tilt the ice and they got one back,” Stepan said.
This is not to say that the Rangers lacked a valiant effort. The effort was certainly there, if you watched the 10 minutes prior to the end of the third period and for an extended amount of the game, the Blueshirts dominated the play. It just goes to show that this game is absolutely a game of inches and seconds.
The Blueshirts and Senators have been separated by one goal in four of their last six meetings, with three of those games ending in the shootout. The Rangers are 4-3-1 versus the competitive Northeast Division this season.
Despite the ability of the Rangers to come from behind, the final goal came so close to the end of the game that the Rangers had limited time to tie the game again.
Last night’s game concluded the Blueshirts’ third of six back-to-back sets this season. New York posted thus far a combined record of 2-3-0 in back-to-back games.
The real key in the past few games for the Rangers proved to be the grit and resilience when the Blueshirts must come from behind. When the Rangers are down a goal it seems they have the grit and intensity needed to win, and last night the Rangers proved that in more ways then not, despite the loss.
Another key component has been the stellar performance of many of the Ranger’s top guys with the likes of Rick Nash, Derek Stepan, Marian Gaborik, Ryan Callahan, and Ryan McDonagh.
Nash has tallied a point in each of his last eight games with six goals and seven assists over the span. Stepan entered last night with a four-game point streak, with two goals and four assists during the streak and tallied a point in eight of the last 11 games (four goals and six assists over the span). Gaborik tallied five points in the last five games. A huge effort also by captain Callahan with six points in the last seven games with four goals and two assists. McDonagh tallied eight points in his last 12 games, including three assists in the last four games.
The Rangers look to put last night’s game in the past tomorrow against the Washington Capitals at 12:30 p.m. EST at the Verizon Center.