The Senators’ formula for a competitive Game 4 Thursday night against the Rangers seems pretty clear.
“Start at the same time as them,” Senators coach Guy Boucher said Wednesday. “That’s it or else we have no chance.”
Boucher and his players lamented the no-show first period by Ottawa in Game 3. They met, watched some video at the team’s hotel and were ready to put it behind them. There wasn’t much talk of on-ice adjustments, simply an attitude adjustment to properly match what the Rangers brought from the start on Tuesday night.
“You could see they were winning puck battles, they were first on pucks, they were blocking shots, they were doing all the right things to win the game and we’ve got to match that intensity if we want to go home with a 3-1 lead,” Alex Burrows said.
Boucher quoted some numbers from his coaching staff’s breakdown of Game 3. The Sens won fewer than 35 percent of the up-for-grabs puck battles and blocked 11 shots. Ottawa was third in the NHL this regular season, averaging 16.5 blocked shots per game.
“It doesn’t matter what you do and it doesn’t matter what systems you use, if we’re playing like that we can’t win any game, not even a regular season game,” Boucher said.
The coach said Bobby Ryan, who left Tuesday’s game in the third period after catching an Erik Karlsson slap shot in the left knee, will play in Game 4. Zack Smith also left Tuesday’s game after the first period; Boucher wasn’t so sure on Smith and said he’s likely to put Tom Pyatt back in the lineup.
The same goes on defense for Chris Wideman, a healthy scratch the past two games. Ben Harpur struggled along with his teammates in Game 3 and will likely take a seat.
But the Sens aren’t terribly concerned with individuals. They were all bad in Game 3, from goaltender Craig Anderson on out, especially in the first period.
“This team is so good on the other side that you can’t even start thinking of being rivals with them if you don’t have everybody on the same page,” Boucher said. “It won’t even be close if we’re not what we were before, but you have to be fair, it’s been a long time since we played a bad game.”
However, that’s two games in a row this series where the Sens were not up to their usual structure. Their furious rally saved them in Game 2; nothing could have saved them in Game 3. Another poor showing would leave the series tied heading back to Ottawa but somehow it would feel worse than that for the Sens.
“The biggest thing for us is really the desperation part,” Burrows said. “The battle level has to be a lot higher, the compete level, the paying-the-price level, the really wanting it more. I think yesterday you saw from them that they’re an experienced team, they’ve been there before. They really took it another level, courage-wise, and we didn’t match that.”