Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Responding The Right Way

Trailing by a goal in a hostile environment, they could've packed their bags and gotten ready for the summer. Instead, the Rangers had other plans. Showing the mettle that's bound them to so many #twitterblueshirts the Rangers battled back to take Game Six 3-2 over the Senators, forcing a seventh and deciding game that'll be played Thursday at MSG.

Brad Richards scored and set up two power play goals. Derek Stepan stepped up with his first goal of the series and two helpers, including a great feed to Chris Kreider for his first goal as a Blueshirt with under a minute left in the pivotal second. One which proved to be the winner following Jason Spezza's controversial goal with 38.6 seconds to go in regulation. We'll get to that later. Most importantly, the East's No.1 seed stayed alive due to resilient play. They refused to go away quietly, sending the closely fought opening round series back to Manhattan for Game Seven. It'll be the first one played at The Garden by our team since they won the franchise's fourth Stanley Cup in '94.

For a while, it seemed that they would again tease us. Unable to generate enough offense in a seesaw first, the Rangers fell behind thanks to one of many dubious calls made by Tim Peel, who sent Mike Rupp to the box for "roughing." His incompetence during such a crucial game was felt by both sides even if Ottawa fans would have you believe it was the only reason their team lost. After Rupp shoved Zenon Konopka and was sent off, the Sens worked the puck around until vet Sergei Gonchar's blast deflected off agitator Chris Neil for a 1-0 lead. Neil beat Marc Staal in front while Henrik Lundqvist had to contest with a double screen due to Mike Del Zotto forgetting to take Zach Smith, making it impossible for our goalie to pick up the shot. Gonchar and Nick Foligno drew the assists.

Despite taking their second lead of the series, the Sens did little else in a period that saw them take only six shots. The Rangers got the next two power plays but it was like a recurring theme from Groundhog Day with Richards unable to beat Konopka on draws and Ottawa repeatedly clearing the puck. I was already in a sore mood due to being sick for over a week. One highlight if you could call it that was Neil finally accepting Brandon Prust's second challenge of the first after he went after Gaborik and Richards. Full credit to Neil who pummeled Prust, who took his lumps to make a point. Sometimes, you have to lose a fight to win a battle. That's exactly what happened.

Prust really hadn't done much in the series but the scrap provided a lift. Not surprisingly, the Rangers took control by the middle point of the game and never let go. Oddly enough, Prust was off for a crosscheck when momentum swung. With our team continuing not to challenge Craig Anderson, I had finally seen enough and went to run an errand. Outside of my suggested USA line of Stepan, Kreider and Ryan Callahan, they weren't looking good. Carl Hagelin's return helped on the forecheck while idol Daniel Alfredsson was unable to spark his team. As I listened to the game, Milan Michalek negated a power play by holding one of our guys. Some Sen fans complained later about Filip Kuba's hook but it was legit unlike the goalie interference on Foligno that led directly to our 5-on-3.

By the time I returned to the car, Stepan had tied the game. Apparently, he drove the net hard and Richards found him for a redirect past Anderson. By no means was it pretty. But a lot more effective than the perimeter crap we'd been seeing. D-Step looked good in Game Five. So, he was one of the guys I was hoping would come through. The other night, Dad was ready to trade everyone. I told him Stepan was a keeper. Nice to see him prove me right.

The beginning of the controversial calls started with a Kreider goalie interference that drew the ire of MSG radio's Dave Maloney. Maloney is a no-nonsense guy who tells it like it is. When he referred to the call as 'bogus,' the broadcast became doubly entertaining. Our radio guys are much better than Sam and Joe. Kenny Albert has superb chemistry with Maloney. Moments later, Foligno was called for an even worse goalie interference, which Maloney quickly chastised again with 'bogus.' Albert then engaged him in a conversation about how our team had more power plays. Fascinating stuff.

While the radio was heating up as I parked, I decided that I wasn't returning to watch the game. Once Richards scored on Mike Del Zotto's first big play of the series, I knew I couldn't go back in. The comeback started when I left. I missed Stepan's goal but could tell the team was playing better before Richards beat Anderson with a big shot. On the play, Del Zotto made an unbelievable keep and then worked a give and go with Stepan before taking a hit to get the puck to a wide open Richie, who did the rest. He delivered the kind of clutch goal which is why we signed him.

With Scotiabank Place still booing Peel, the Sens forgot to play the final shift of the second. It proved fatal when the Spezza line got caught puck watching. Stepan had all day to find Kreider in front who this time didn't miss. It was a rocket that Anderson had no chance on. Just huge. Kreider's first came with over 40 seconds remaining from Stepan and Staal, who like Del Zotto steadied throughout. Big kudos to MDZ for paying back Neil for what he did to Brian Boyle. To see him cry about it was priceless. That goal at even strength was pivotal because it gave the Blueshirts a two-goal lead into the locker room. It was also the first time either team scored three in a period.

The intermission came and went. I had time to check the baseball games with the Yanks winning and the Mets losing. Then, it was game on. As I sat in the car, hoping our team would continue to stay aggressive, I had also missed Lundqvist's biggest save which came with the game tied when he robbed Alfredsson on the doorstep. If he doesn't stop him, we could be writing an obituary instead of talking about Game Seven. I'm glad.

Ottawa had an early power play in the third with Prust off for tripping. Another call Maloney didn't agree on. In any event, Lundqvist had some help from his best friend the goalpost on another Gonchar shot. A few big stops and our team killed it off. Game Four hero Kyle Turris picked up a slash but our team wasn't able to capitalize. The Sens got 13 shots in the period but our Vezina candidate held it together long enough for Tortorella to send Kreider out in the final minute. That's how well he played.

With Anderson off for an extra attacker, the Sens made it interesting when Spezza was credited with his third in two games. However, it was controversial with Lundqvist immediately protesting the ruling, which went to Toronto. A lengthy review didn't overturn it. Instead, the original call stood despite Henrik's insistence afterwards that Neil kicked it in. It sure looked like it. The puck seemed to slow down but then suddenly regained steam and went over. Neil was the only one in the vicinity and also got away with shoving Lundqvist, who ripped the league by charging, "Someone wanted them back in it."

This was uncharacteristic for our goalie. He obviously saw what happened and the fact Neil pushed him before the play must've made him snap. Though I was informed by a legit source that even with all their replays they couldn't see it, I do get why he was so upset. What if the Sens tied it? These games are so tight that one call could change things. The Rangers still did what they had to, coming away with the 'W.' Now it's onto Game Seven.

BONY 3 Stars:

3rd Star-Chris Kreider, NYR (game-winner at 19:19 of 2nd-1st goal as a Ranger in 10:46)
2nd Star-Brad Richards, NYR (PPG-3rd of series, assist, 2 hits in 21:47)
1st Star-Derek Stepan, NYR (1st of series, 2 assists in 19:00)

Notes: The start time for Thursday still isn't known, probably depending on what the Devils do tonight versus the Panthers. ... With Phoenix blanking 4-0 to advance to the second round for the first time since relocating, the West is all set with the Coyotes hosting the Predators while the Blues battle the Kings, guaranteeing a new Conference champ for the first time since Los Angeles last made the Final with the Great One.

1 comment:

BartNJ said...

the Sens forgot to play the final shift of the second - Hilarious way of putting it, true

The Puck Stops Here


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