Rangers face elimination game in Ottawa
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And without a desperate effort -- and as Henrik Lundqvist is fond of saying, a little puck luck -- the Eastern Conference-leading Rangers soon could join them.
To stay alive in the playoffs, the Blueshirts need to win Game 6 Monday night at Scotiabank Place, the scene of Game 4, where they had an early two-goal lead and an opportunity to grab a three-games-to-one advantage in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarterfinal series.
Instead, Ottawa rallied to win, 3-2, in overtime on Kyle Turris' goal. That comeback could haunt the Rangers, who were eliminated in the first round in John Tortorella's first two seasons as their coach.
The Rangers, who lost Game 5 Saturday night at Madison Square Garden when Craig Anderson turned away 41 shots and Jason Spezza scored his first two goals of the series, also might have to overcome what could be the emotional return of 39-year-old captain Daniel Alfredsson, who suffered a concussion when Rangers rookie Carl Hagelin caught him with an elbow to the head in Game 2.
"We're obviously going to wait until [Monday], but the way the last two days felt, I'm encouraged," Alfredsson told reporters after an optional practice here Sunday.
Hagelin, who served a three-game suspension for the high hit, will return to the lineup. So will Senators forward Chris Neil, who dealt Brian Boyle a concussion with a third-period check in Game 5. Boyle, who has three goals in the series, did not participate in an optional practice Sunday.
The NHL reviewed the hit, which went unpenalized and Tortorella called "dangerous," but Brendan Shanahan, the league's director of player safety, did not believe the incident warranted a hearing or any discipline. Neil said he thought the hit was clean.
Sunday, a tight-lipped Tortorella declined to comment on the play. Although he had termed Boyle "out" in his postgame remarks, when asked if the 6-7 center would make the trip, he responded, "I don't know."
What the coach must know, however, is that his team has not been dominant in April. Counting the three losses in the final four games of the season, the Rangers have lost six of the last nine games. And against the Senators, they have scored five goals in the last four.
After Saturday's loss, the team's leaders, including captain Ryan Callahan, Brad Richards and Dan Girardi, insisted that they can rebound from it. Indeed, the Rangers lost three games in a row only twice this season. Should they extend the series, Game 7 would be at the Garden on Thursday.
Sunday, rookie Chris Kreider, one of 11 players to practice, described the locker room as one of "quiet confidence. There's definitely a sense of urgency, but there's quiet confidence. It's a good group. They know what they have to do."
He spoke about his focus for Game 6. "We're down 3-2," he said. "We need to get the next one, and that's the only thing on my mind right now . . . It's been tough [sitting out]. Now I'm just looking forward. What happened happened."
Hagelin, 23, would only say this about fellow Swede Alfredsson, whom he described as a hockey idol when he was growing up: "If he's good, that's a good sign. I'm going to keep playing the way I did all year. I'm not a dirty player. If I go out there and don't play the way I need to play, I'm not going to be a good player. I need to do my thing."
He also referenced the team's 51-win season: "We've been solid all year. We've got to make sure we play well defensively and our chances are going to come."
With Zach Schonbrun
The Rangers have not fared well recently in playoff elimination games:
Conference quarterfinals: Down 3-1 to Capitals, Rangers lose Game 5 in Washington, 3-1.
Conference quarterfinals: Forced to a Game 7 against Capitals after leading series 3-1, Rangers lose deciding game in Washington, 2-1.
Conference semifinals: Down 3-1 to Penguins, Rangers lose Game 5, 3-2, in overtime in Pittsburgh.
Conference semifinals: Down 3-2 to Buffalo, Rangers lose Game 6, 5-4, at Madison Square Garden.
Conference quarterfinals: Down 3-0 to New Jersey, Rangers lose Game 4, 4-2, at Madison Square Garden.