The Senators may be the team up 2-0 in their series with the Rangers, but the mood after Ottawa’s practice on Monday at Madison Square Garden was that of a team that knows it’s fortunate to be where it is heading into Tuesday night’s Game 3.
“They played better than we did. We found a way to win a game, but I don’t think that was a game we’re very proud of. We snuck one away and it’s going to be a totally different game [Tuesday night],” Erik Karlsson said of Saturday’s wild 6-5 win by the Senators on Jean-Gabriel Pageau’s fourth goal of the game in the second overtime.
Pageau was the focus of attention again, still basking in the afterglow of his huge Game 2 — he remarked how cool it was that an Ottawa eatery had named one of its breakfast items after him on Sunday — and that perhaps is fitting.
Pageau is known as a defensive specialist on a Senators team that allowed 2.56 goals per game in the regular season, 10th in the NHL. So Guy Boucher’s focus for his team in Monday’s practice was getting back to the basics. For the Senators, that meant focusing on their transition play.
Not the kind of transition up the ice when they have the puck, but when they were rushing back on defense. They allowed two shorthanded goals and two more off the rush in Game 2.
“I thought our transition from defense to offense was good, but from offense to defense, we just gave them way too much,” Boucher said. “We had four guys up in the rush, and either we turn it over or miss a shot and they came back on us quick.”
Boucher will have some lineup decisions to make with a pretty healthy squad for Game 3. Clarke MacArthur, who left Game 2 with an upper-body injury that the veteran forward said was a pinched nerve, practiced fully Monday and pronounced himself ready to play.
Karlsson, who played the final weeks of the regular season and the first round nagged by two hairline fractures in his left heel, sat out practice but won’t miss a beat.
“You’re always in discomfort this time of year,” he said. “Your body is going through a lot. It’s not something that’s uncommon and it’s not going to be an issue moving forward.”
Moving forward for the Senators means preparing to see the Rangers’ best shot when the puck drops Tuesday night. They already saw plenty of good from the Rangers in Game 2 and managed to steal one.
“Today was just about getting back on the tracks,” MacArthur said. “We don’t want to have an open game, especially with their speed and their talent. We feel lucky after a game like that. We want to come back and play our system, our way, and if we can win that way, we’ve been doing it all year.”