With a little bit of swagger and a lot of speed, the Rangers outplayed the Ottawa Senators on Thursday night in Game 4, and their 4-1 win at Madison Square Garden tied their best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal series at two games apiece.
It was a night for unsung heroes, as center Oscar Lindberg scored twice in the second period, Tanner Glass had two assists and seven hits, and defenseman Nick Holden used a slick move to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead in the first period.
The Rangers, who have scored first in all four games against the Senators, have trailed for only 4:11 in the series. They have won four straight home playoff games after snapping a six-game home losing streak in Game 4 against the Canadiens in the first round.
Home teams have won all four games in this series. After two losses in Ottawa, Lindberg said, “we’re definitely playing a little tougher here at home. We’re able to get some more hits and making it tough on their defense. From doing that, I think we’ve been able to get more pucks back and spend a longer time in their zone.”
By the time Chris Kreider, screening in front, gave the Rangers a 4-0 lead by backhanding a rebound of Ryan McDonagh’s one-timer from the point past backup goalie Mike Condon during a power play (Condon relieved Craig Anderson to start the third period), the outcome was inevitable. Kyle Turris spoiled Henrik Lundqvist’s shutout with a short-side wrister with 6:26 left.
After Kreider’s goal, the frustrated Senators, who were outscored 8-2 in New York, started slashing and delivered a few cheap shots, with Dion Phaneuf leading the way. With 25.3 seconds left, Glass bullrushed Turris, who had crosschecked Lindberg in the face. On the next faceoff, the Senators continued the nastiness, as Alex Burrows slashed J.T. Miller, setting up what likely will be a rough Game 5 on Saturday in Ottawa.
“Every game builds a little more emotion. There hadn’t been much of that [stuff] before, so I expect it to continue,” Holden said.
Lundqvist, who made 22 saves, faced only 16 shots in the first two periods as the Rangers won most of the puck battles, blocked shots and sprung forwards for odd-man rushes.
Holden joined the play off the boards and beat Anderson on a forehand off a pass from Kevin Hayes at 14:04 of the first period for a 1-0 lead. “I had a step and pulled it [the puck] back and got him [Anderson] off the post,’’ he said. “I try it in practice and sometimes it doesn’t work. I was fortunate tonight it did.”
Glass, who was called up from AHL Hartford late in the season, has been the X-factor. His shot block sent Michael Grabner and Lindberg down for a two-on-none that Lindberg buried at 2:01 of the second. Lindberg’s second goal came after Glass won battles deep and then distracted Anderson in front. Lindberg’s wrister from the point found the net with 4:06 left in the second to make it 3-0.
“They’re not exactly play-making assists,” said Glass, who replaced Pavel Buchnevich in the lineup in Game 3 and for five of the 10 games overall. “They are just kind of the gritty, grinding game I bring. Sometimes it ends up in the back of the net.”
The Senators could have a damaged Erik Karlsson, who took several hard hits. The star defenseman was limping late in the second period and was not on the bench to start the third. The Norris Trophy candidate has been playing with two hairline fractures in his left heel.
In a microcosm of Ottawa’s fortunes, late in the first period, Karlsson lined up a shot all alone in the slot, but his stick broke and the puck skittered away.
The momentum certainly has shifted since the Rangers’ 6-5 double-overtime loss in Game 2. “It’s not a one-man show here,” Lundqvist said. “Every game is tough and you’re not going to get anything for free. You have to earn it. It’s 2-2. That’s all it is.”