Rangers-Senators: Fighting Fire With Fire-Fighters Named Boyle and Lundqvist
Thursday, February 23, 2017
By Stan Fischler
This was not a railroad saga but as far as the Rangers were concerned their jet flight to Ottawa was all about getting back on track.
The ultimate June destination of John Tortorella's choo-choo is the last stop in the Land of the Stanley Cup but getting there is half the fun -- provided that the journey produces wins in The Great White North. And it did!
On Monday night in the Ottawa suburb of Kanata, the Rangers welcomed the opportunity to re-lead the series while also welcoming highly-touted rookie Chris Kreider on to the varsity roster.
Well, well, well; it all turned out the way Amtrak would approve -- on track. The Rangers Express prevailed, 1-0, over the Senators with Brian Boyle and Henrik Lundqvist the chief engineers. Boyle's third period goal broke the ice while The King conquered all 39 Senators shots including a pair of point-blankers in the final minute with six Ottawa skaters storming his cage.
It was Henny's fourth career playoff shutout catapulting the Blueshirts into a two games to one lead. Game Three reverts to Senators' home ice on Wednesday night.
"I figured that one goal would have it," said Boyle, "and fortunately we got it. I got a fortunate bounce but it was a group effort."
Or, as Brandon Dubinsky puts it, "We're now playing for keeps!"
Or, as Dan Girardi puts it, "Brian is doing everything for us; blocking shots, getting goals."
Based on the first two games, Dubie could easily have substituted "brawling" for "playing" and in GameThree, the trend had everyone on edge.
Just what would erupt in the opening period -- a goal or a brawl -- piqued the packed house. Interestingly, it was Kreider who drew the first penalty and New York's first power play but it went for nought. Next came an Ottawa power play that fizzled like old seltzer. Blood-letting was not part of this script.
The first face-down featured Ottawa goalie Craig Anderson and the Blueshirts Brandon Prust but not a fist was thrown in anger; just smirks.This led to a goal mouth scrum featuring Jason Spezza and Brandon Prust that eventually resulted in an unfathomable Senators power play at 14:21 effectively negated by New York.
Without naming names, Torts wanted more from Marian Gaborik and Brad Richards but it was Boyle and Ruslan Fedotenko who starred in the First Act which concluded at 0-0.
Ottawa's dubious defense appeared fragile early in the second but the Rangers failed to exploit the weakness. Then a dangerous Ottawa counterattack was blunted by Stu Bickel with Lundqvist out of position.
If there was to be a storm following the calm, it was preceded by a relentless New York attack with the brand of dominance Rangers fans had expected. Finally with five minutes remaining in the middle period, Spezza went off for two for holding and the Rangers got a good shot by Dubinsky but Anderson nullified it and the two-period frenzy ended knotted at zip.
Meanwhile, all scouting reports that suggested Kreider was ready for playoff hockey proved accurate. Playing his first NHL game, Chris came close to scoring at least once and never looked out of place with just over eleven minutes of ice time.
The sense heading for the third period was that it would be a reasonable facsimile of overtime with the first goal being the winner. So far, so good for the visitors and even better when a Girardi maneuver set up Boyle with a backhander that cleanly beat Anderson at 7:35. Ryan Callahan and Girardi got assists.
A tripping penalty to Callahan at 12:51 provided the home club with a brief advantage but it was negated by an Ottawa penalty to Chris Phillips shortly thereafter. Then Anderson robbed Callahan on a breakaway.
The Seventh Avenue Skaters tightened their defense just enough in the waning minutes to frustrate not only the Senators but the entire Province of Ontario and, very likely, the Canadian Parliament. And when the Senators got good and scary close -- with Anderson pulled for a sixth skater -- Lundqvist did what a Vezina Trophy-winner is supposed to do.
"We did a really good job," concluded Lundqvist. "Half-way through I figured the first goal would be huge. I was determined and when Boyle scored, I said to myself, 'Let's get it done.'"
And he did.
Bottom Line: When the chips were down Rangers hockey prevailed. So the Torts Choo-Choo is on track speeding toward a hoped-for Wednesday night win before steaming back to The Apple and a series wrap-up.