In need of a win, Rangers find their mojo in Game 3 against the Senators

Wednesday May 3rd, 2017

NEW YORK—After dropping the opening two games of their second round series to Senators in Ottawa, the New York Rangers returned to Madison Square Garden on Tuesday in desperate need of a victory.

Not only did they get that much-needed win, they also controlled the pace of play for most of their 60 minutes on the rink, setting the tone right from the opening face-off. The Blueshirts out-shot the Senators 15-5 in the first period and cashed in twice. If not for some misfires, their lead could’ve been even bigger.

"We had to come out with a good start, play a strong 60 minutes,” New York forward Derek Stepan said. “I thought, for the most part, we were real solid."

Ultimately, the Rangers’ control of the puck proved to be the difference. They certainly weren’t lacking in offensive production in Game 2, scoring five times in a 6-5 overtime loss. However, their opponent enjoyed just as much success, and even a drop more, beating Henrik Lundqvist on six occasions—including the double overtime-winner by Jean-Gabriel Pageau.

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But there would be none of that tonight. The Rangers built a lead and then protected it. Mika Zibanejad picked up his team-leading seventh point of the postseason, assisting on Mats Zuccarello’s first period goal, while Michael Grabner notched his fourth tally of the playoffs. Whenever the Sens did get possession of the puck, the Rangers often retrieved it in short order.

“They had some good bounces going their way in Ottawa,” Lundqvist said on Tuesday. “Tonight, we made sure that, if they were going to get anything, they were going to have to earn it by working really hard. I think everybody felt like we played a real strong game when we needed to the most."

Even as the Senators put up more of a fight in the middle frame, the Rangers kept them at bay and, despite getting out-shot, put another two goals on the board via Rick Nash and Oscar Lindberg. It was Lindberg’s first career playoff goal, and Nash’s third of the 2017 postseason.

Recap | Box score | Highlights

The only Rocket Richard Trophy-winner as the league’s top goal-scorer on the ice, Nash needed to be more of a factor, and he absolutely was one in Game 3. In addition to the goal he scored, he was outstanding on the penalty kill and created lots of offense, even going so far as to carry Mike Hoffman on his back while driving towards the front of the net.

Also of note was that the Rangers were 29-for-57 (51%) in the face off circle after winning just 42% of them in Game 2.

Without the puck, New York was simply superb. Ryan McDonagh thwarted what would’ve been a breakaway chance for Ottawa’s Ryan Dzingel with near-perfect man-to-man coverage. That’s the kind of thing his team could’ve used in the last few minutes in the third period of Game 2 and it’s one of the reasons Game 3 wasn’t a repeat of that catastrophe, though Pageau did manage to score his fourth straight goal for the Senators and cut the lead to 4-1 before the end of the period.

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The Senators continued to push in the third period and Lundqvist, another guy the Rangers needed to be better in the second game, was ready for them. He made big stops on Erik Karlsson and Clarke MacArthur and was otherwise very poised.

“There's no question that we were the better team tonight,” Lundqvist said. “We played with speed, emotion and determination, and we got it done. It was great to see."

For the Rangers, these were welcome changes. Expected to be the favorite, it came as a bit of a shock that they fell behind 2-0, but if this game was any indication, they’re back. 

"I think we were just locked in," captain Ryan McDonagh told NBCSN post-game. "We wanted to be prepared for any situation... I liked our execution the whole night."

The Blueshirts will try and knot the series on Thursday night with another matchup at MSG. 

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