The Senators knew what was coming in the first period Tuesday night. They’d been talking about what they’d face in the Garden, coming in up 2-0 in the series after escaping with a Game 2 win they perhaps did not deserve.
But all that talk amounted to a whole lot of nothing for the Senators in the first period of their Game 3 beating at the hands of the Rangers.
“To know and to feel are two very different things,” Guy Boucher said after his team fell behind 2-0 on the scoreboard and much deeper in every aspect of the game, outshot 26-12 and 15-5 on goal in the opening 20 minutes. “The game was lost in the first period, that’s it. They were hungry, they were desperate and we didn’t match it. When you give away 20 minutes like that you don’t deserve to win.”
The Senators pride themselves on a tight defensive style and that 6-5 overtime rally on Saturday at home felt great but perhaps left a hollow feeling with all their breakdowns, especially in transition.
Tuesday’s poor effort was the product of mistakes and self-inflicted wounds all over the ice. Five Senators stood and watched Mats Zuccarello race onto Mika Zibanejad’s pass to open the scoring at 5:31 of the first period. Craig Anderson, who nearly gave away Game 2 in the first OT had a misplay behind his net, getting his signals crossed with defenseman Ben Harpur, who handed the second goal to Michael Grabner at 13:24.
And the unfunny comedy of errors hit a pinnacle in the second when Erik Karlsson and Mark Stone collided near the Rangers blue line to give Derek Stepan and Rick Nash a long two on one that Nash converted for the dagger 3-0 deficit.
“The guys in here know what we have to do to be successful and we know what we did wrong,” said Karlsson, who was on the ice for three Rangers goals, was bumped and hit often and nailed teammate Bobby Ryan in the knee with a shot that sent Ryan to the locker room for the night. “We talked about it, we tried to prepare for it but we couldn’t find a way to execute it.”
Anderson didn’t get much help but he also didn’t help himself, straying on Grabner’s goal and giving Nash loads of room. The Senators goaltender came into Game 3 with a 9-3-1 record in the Garden, a place he spoke of fondly after Monday’s practice. Even with a 2-1 series lead, Anderson has given up nine goals in the last two games after allowing 14 in the first seven games of the postseason.
“At the end of the day it wasn’t good enough as a group,” Anderson said. Of the misplay with Harpur, the goaltender said only: “It happens.”
The Senators still lead the series. But this was the first clunker by either side in three games and Ottawa has a lot to work on before Thursday’s Game 4.
“You can’t put yourself in a hole like that,” Dion Phaneuf said. “We did it last game and we were lucky to win it. We have to play to a higher level going forward.”