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Anderson outduels Lundqvist, Senators push Rangers to the brink
Netminder Craig Anderson led the charge with a workman like forty-one save performance and Jason Spezza picked the perfect time to finally find the back of the net. As the Ottawa Senators pushed the heavily favoured New York Rangers to the brink of elimination, with a 2-0 win, to take a commanding 3-2 lead in the series.
Edmonton - April 22, 2012 - Heading into the playoffs, the series most "experts" felt could be a sweep or go five games at the very most, was the Ottawa Senators against the New York Rangers. Outside of Ottawa supporters, no one really gave them much of a chance to even keep this one close. Well, five games into the series it has become apparent that we all owe the Senators and their fans one huge apology. Netminder Craig Anderson led the charge with a workman like forty-one save performance and Jason Spezza picked the perfect time to finally find the back of the net. As the underdog Sens have pushed the heavily favoured Rangers to the brink of elimination, with a well earned 2-0 win, to take a commanding 3-2 lead in the series.
After being held goalless for the first four games of the series, Spezza finally manged to get a puck behind Henrik Lundqvist and give the visitors a first period lead. Playing alongside Mark Stone, whom was making his NHL debut, Spezza took a lovely feed from the youngster and quickly snapped a shot past the surprised Ranger netminder. The goal was not only the the veteran's first goal of the series but also marked the first time that Ottawa had scored in the opening stanza.
They had a wonderful opportunity to make it a two goal bulge, heading into the first intermission, but Lundqvist stoned Erik Condra on a breakaway in the final minute to keep New York within one. The Rangers may have held a 14-9 advantage on the shot clock but Ottawa started to carry the play after Spezza's ice breaker at the 9:18 mark.
The two sides exchanged chances in the middle frame but both goaltenders were up to the task. Anderson made his life far more difficult then it needed to be, by whiffing on a loose puck in front of his crease but still managed to recover and make a breath taking pad stop off Brandon Dubinsky. While Ottawa would get their second breakaway of the night, when Milan Michalek blew between both Ranger defenceman but the speedy winger was unable to beat King Henrik.
New York came out hard looking for the equalizer in the third but simply could not find a way to beat Anderson. He made point blank stops off Marian Gaborik and Derek Stepan seems almost routine, while finding any and all loose pucks on scramble plays in front of his crease. Throughout his career, Anderson has always played his best when he sees a lot of rubber and New York certainly gave him his fair share to deal with. He was in a zone and frankly looked as though only a lucky bounce would beat and the Rangers did not have one coming.
Spezza would put this one to bed with his second of the night into an empty night and push the Ranger to brink of elimination. With the loss, the Eastern Conference's top ranked team now joins their Western Conference counterparts, the Vancouver Canucks, on the first round chopping block. While both teams are up against the wall, the Canucks have the greater hill to climb after falling down 3-0 to the Los Angeles Kings. That being said, after two straight victories the momentum has clearly swung the Senators way. They now back to Ottawa, looking to pull off what would easily be the biggest upset of this year's playoffs.
To make matters even worse, New York looks to have lost the services of Brian Boyle for the foreseeable future. The towering forward was injured in the third period when he was knocked into next week, courtesy of Chris Neil. While Boyle did return for a briefly after being nailed by the Sens agitator, he did not see the ice again. According to Rangers head coach John Tortorella, Boyle did indeed suffer a concussion on the play and there is no timetable for his immediate return. In the wake of the 25 game suspension handed down to Phoenix Coyotes forward Raffi Torres on Saturday afternoon, much was made of Neil's hit by the Rangers bench boss, saying it was no different then the Torres hit and added, ''It's just a dangerous, dangerous, cheap hit.'' The hit was definitely late and somewhat blindsided Boyle but just like the Torres hit on Hossa, none of the officials on the ice felt it warranted a penalty.
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