OTTAWA — There was an opportunity here of a different kind, but in the second game of this series just as the Rangers had in the last one, when a chance to take a two-nil series lead slipped away with 17.3 seconds remaining and was completely lost in overtime. They went on to recover.
This? This opportunity wasted is more gut-wrenching and creates a more daunting task for the Rangers, who blew a two-goal lead late in the third period and fell in double overtime, 6-5, to fall behind, 2-0, in their second-round tilt against the Senators.
Jean-Gabriel Pageau might be the cause of nightmares this weekend, four goals scored for Ottawa, two within a span of 2:17 including a tying goal 1:02 left in regulation with an extra attacker on, getting space in front of the Rangers’ net on both occasions for deflections, and the double-overtime winner 2:54 in.
“Can’t really say much about it now. It’s over. Obviously that one hurts a lot,” Dan Girardi said.
Sometimes the bounces of a puck can change the entire game, but the Rangers have to find a way to close that one out, have to find a way to make a two-goal lead with less than four minutes to play stand up. Because now it’s the difference of going home with the series tied and being in a position where they have to win four out of the next possible five games.
It was a more human afternoon for Henrik Lundqvist, who was beaten near side on Pageau’s tying goal in the first period after Girardi flung the puck to nobody in the neutral zone. The winner came off a two-on-one rush after Nick Holden jumped up to the half wall to try to keep the puck in the offensive zone but failed.
“I wasn’t good enough,” Lundqvist said. “Coming up with the extra save there in the end, that’s my job. Even though it’s tough plays on deflections, I’ve got to find a way.”
And this all came after the Rangers did do plenty of good things, dominating the second period after Alain Vigneault mixed up his lines and responding to Ottawa counter punches earlier in the third period.
“We played well enough to win this game, there’s no question about it,” said Lundqvist, who was tagged for as many goals Saturday as he allowed in the previous four games combined. “It’s really tough to lose this one. Clearly they’ve gotten the bounces here in the first two games. We’ve just got to go home and regroup.”
The Rangers looked vastly improved on the penalty kill and got two goals off of it from Michael Grabner and Derek Stepan, both off odd-man rushes. They got Chris Kreider’s first goal of the playoffs and two goals from rookie Brady Skjei, whose goals both put the Rangers back up by two shortly after Ottawa scored in the second and then early in the third.
Hats littered the ice after Pageau’s third goal, the Rangers looking stunned. They had chances in the first overtime period, Rick Nash stuffed by Kyle Turris’ stick blade after Nash stole the puck from Craig Anderson, who made 43 saves, and tried a wraparound.
“At this point the guys in this room have to communicate this thing out,” Stepan said. “We have to make our adjustments. I felt like we gave them a lot tonight and I think that’s something we can really adjust, not give them as many opportunities.”
The team boarded a plane back to New York with a menacing challenge in front of it. They have Sunday to process it and Monday to practice before hosting Game 3 on Tuesday.
“It’s gonna be tough tonight and tomorrow, and then you move on,” Lundqvist said. “There’s no other way.”