Call it delusion, call it confidence, call it spin or call it all of the above, but before leaving New York on Friday, the Ottawa Senators had a collective response to their back-to-back 4-1 losses to the Rangers.
To paraphrase: What, us worry?
“There is no momentum,” coach Guy Boucher said at the team hotel in Manhattan less than 12 hours after the Senators saw the Rangers tie the Eastern Conference semifinal series at two games apiece. “There never is. It’s back at zero.”
Said defenseman Dion Phaneuf: “It’s 2-2. If you tell us that at the start of the series, we’re going to take it, and now we’re here.”
These responses came amid pointed questions from Canadian media members who noted the Rangers’ dominance at the Garden, as well as their aggressiveness, embodied in the form of Tanner Glass.
The Rangers have trailed for a combined 4 minutes, 11 seconds in the four games.
The Senators’ situation will be far less dire if Boucher was telling the truth when he said he expects his best player and captain, defenseman Erik Karlsson, to participate in Game 5 on Saturday.
Karlsson has been hampered by two hairline fractures in his left heel, and he left the game altogether Thursday night soon after a play on which he came up wincing after falling over a sliding Chris Kreider.
“I think he’s going to be there,” Phaneuf said. “If he’s not, it’s a huge blow to our team, that’s for sure.”
The Senators said they must do a better job creating traffic in front of goaltender Henrik Lundqvist and finding a way to get pucks through Rangers intent on blocking shots. Boucher said the Rangers make that more difficult than any other team the Senators have faced this season.
Then there is Glass, who played a fine all-around game Thursday and set a physical tone that helped lead to several scraps down the stretch — including Glass against Kyle Turris, who is considered a finesse player.
Phaneuf called that fight a “mismatch” three times and seemed to imply Glass should pick on people his own size.
Phaneuf, who fought Brendan Smith in Game 4, got a bit testy after one question too many about how long the Senators waited to stand up for themselves.
Eventually, he joked, “There’s still fighting allowed, so I figured I’d get that in before they take that out.”
Boucher credited Glass with making an impact but added: “The next game will be a different story. It will be a different look. It will be a different atmosphere and it will give us a new story . . . They were physical in front of their fans. We’re going back to our fans now.”