NYR – OTT Game 1 Period By Period
The puck is dropped in Ottawa. Both teams spend a bit of time feeling each other out early on, playing safe and making sure to always have two men back. Shots are being kept to the perimeter, and the teams’ aren’t generating many “grade A” chances. I noticed quickly that Lundqvist was tracking the puck really well; not just on shots on goal, but on shots that miss the net and passes as well. That theory is put to the test quickly, as a weak slashing call on Kevin Hayes (it was a tap on the hip), grants Ottawa the first power play. Almost immediately, Lundqvist is standing on his head, making ten-bell save after ten-bell save. There were two saves in this period that are goals well over 90% of the time. On this power play, he robbed Mark Stone with an incredible left arm save on the goal line.
Jesper Fast springs Michael Grabner on a short-handed breakaway but is stopped by Craig Anderson. The sloppy Rangers take another penalty, this time for too many men on the ice. Again King Henrik reigns supreme, making several huge saves in rapid succession. At this point, so early on, I get the feeling that the Senators are frustrated. Play gets a little loose after the two-man advantages. Both teams are getting chances. The hitting is not nearly as fierce as the Montreal series, but hits on all-star defensemen Ryan McDonagh and Erik Karlsson are finished religiously. The Rangers first power play features a Brian Leetch-like end to end rush by McDonagh, who is thwarted. Lundqvist makes jaw-dropping save number two, stopping Zach Smith on what seemed like a sure goal off a rebound on a 2v1. Shots were 21-12 in favor of Ottawa at the end of the first. In a bad period by the Rangers, Kevin Hayes was particularly awful. Miller was a bit better, and Lundqvist is officially in the Senators heads.
Ottawa starts the period taking a bad penalty to give New York an early man advantage, where the Rangers fail to convert. The play remains loose, in sharp contrast to the series against the Canadiens. The Rangers grab another power play and this time make it count. Pavel Buchnevich and Mats Zuccarello with one touch passes and quickly get it to the blue line to McDonagh. The Rangers captain drives one before Anderson can get set, and beats him through the Chris Kreider screen, giving them a 1-0 lead. The Rangers continue to tighten their play defensively and are able to get into the Senators zone easily and with speed. Michael Grabner, Oscar Lindberg, and Jesper Fast are very effective, and Anderson makes some clutch saves on Grabner and Brendan Smith. While Nick Holden seems much better, Brady Skjei does not. He somehow forces Lundqvist to make a save on an errant cross-ice pass. Skjei then takes a needless holding penalty, to send Ottawa on another man advantage. Lundqvist stars early but succumbs as Ryan Dzingel fires a loose puck over the Swedish netminder’s left shoulder. The Rangers barely keep it tied as the buzzer sounds. Ottawa again has a shot advantage, this time 13-11. One-third of their shots are on the power play. New York must stay out of the box in the third period.
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The play is choppy for the first few minutes. The referees swallow the whistle as Grabner is tripped by Karlsson. The Rangers seem to be playing soft. There is no finish to their game, as Ottawa starts to play better 5 on 5. Dzingel gets behind Skjei, on a breakaway, and Lundqvist snares his slapshot out of the air to preserve the tie. Anderson makes a solid stop on a rebound attempt from Brendan Smith. With just under 5 minutes left, Rick Nash inexplicably doesn’t get the puck out of the zone. The puck goes deep and the Rangers sink down, whether tired or just in a soft malaise, and allow the Senators to move the puck around to Karlsson in the corner to Lundqvist’s left. The Ottawa defenseman flings the puck at a weird angle, that goes through Mcdonagh, off of Stepan and into the back of Lundqvist’s mask and in. A crazy goal filled with poor positioning, soft play, and a lucky bounce. Some may find fault with Lundqvist’s positioning but the plays by Nash, McDonagh, and Stepan definitely did not help.
For the seventh game in a row, Hayes, Miller, Stepan and Kreider were non-factors. Nash had his worst game. The penalty killing was alarmingly bad, and the team’s discipline was off. Tonight the team asked too much of the goalie and didn’t reward him with a second goal. Buchnevich had two good scoring chances and flubbed them both. I get the feeling Viktor Stalberg will be a pain in the butt all series. The Rangers are playing a team that is better offensively, but weaker in their own zone. More will be demanded from many of their forwards, who have to be better at finishing and being harder to play against.