Rangers can give thanks to Senators
Arthur StapleArthur Staple
Staple, with Newsday since 1997, has covered high school
How they got there is not really that important now.
The Rangers got themselves a Game 7 at Madison Square Garden, and that is what matters.
Their 3-2 win in Game 6 Monday night wasn't a dominant performance. It didn't appear to be 60 minutes of frenzied desperation for the Rangers, who were on the brink of elimination and down a goal for much of the first half of the game.
But their even-keel effort, their hard-working mantra that has seemed to leave them stuck in neutral at times while the Senators flew around them, actually was the biggest key to sending this series back to New York.
The Rangers stayed calm, stayed patient and played hard, while the immature Senators lost their cool during a crucial stretch of the second period. A 1-0 Ottawa lead became a 3-1 Rangers lead, and suddenly it seemed as though the plucky Senators had been caught dreaming of celebrations and series-ending handshakes.
And the Rangers were happy to take what Ottawa gave them.
"We didn't expect the Rangers were going to come in here and say, 'Here you go, guys, we're ready to go home,' " Senators coach Paul MacLean said. "Maybe we did think that, I don't know. But we didn't match their desperation level until the last six minutes of the game."
By then, even though the Senators threw the kitchen sink at Henrik Lundqvist, it was too late. A couple of brutal penalties taken in the offensive zone by the Senators led to Rangers power-play goals -- and truthfully, if the Rangers could have capitalized on their power-play chances in Games 2 and 5, Monday night's game might not have been necessary -- and then the Rangers took advantage of a brutal shift by Ottawa in the final minute of the second to grab a two-goal lead.
"We stuck with it," Dan Girardi said. "We didn't worry about what was going on in the game and just made sure to get them back on their heels."
There was a lot of calm talk in the visitors' dressing room about staying patient, staying with their game. It can be infuriating at times to watch, knowing that the Rangers needed a burst, needed something, as their goal drought stretched into its third hour of play.
They got it, all right, with some boneheaded Senators plays. Milan Michalek decided to bear-hug Marc Staal during a Senators power play; Derek Stepan chipped in a goal on the ensuing Rangers advantage. With the teams already skating four-on-four, Nick Foligno, perhaps the best forward on either team the first five games, tried to flop onto Lundqvist after a shove from Girardi, but the officials only saw Foligno clear out the goaltender.
Brad Richards rifled in a five-on-three goal, and the Senators looked stunned. They still looked that way when Stepan grabbed a poor clear and found Chris Kreider for the dagger goal in the final minute.
And now it's back to New York, thanks to some patience while the Senators crumbled.
"I disagree sometimes with how our team is portrayed here, but we were able to win a game," John Tortorella said.
His team has built up high expectations thanks to an overachieving season, and the fact that the Rangers trailed 3-2 heading into Monday night certainly had some wondering if the 51 wins and 109 points were a mirage.
But this team, though not able to overwhelm the Senators, took charge in a determined way when the opportunity arose.
They got what they wanted, which was a win here and a deciding game on their ice, in front of their fans. And they have the Senators to thank for it.