Originally written on The Rangers Tribune  |  Last updated 4/14/12

LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 02: Brian Boyle #24 of the New York Rangers before the game against the Los Angeles Kings at the Staples Center on February 2, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Well, it didn’t take very long for this series to gain a whole lot of animosity and intensity, did it? Tonight’s Game 2 at Madison Square Garden couldn’t have been any more, well, out of the norm in terms of what you would expect from the Rangers and the Senators. Between fights, cheap shots, inconsistent officiating and some ugly goals, this tilt was about as unpredictable as they come. It was only fitting that extra time was required to find a winner, and unfortunately that would not be the New York Rangers.   

Head coach Paul MacLean and the Ottawa Senators sent out a tough starting lineup to begin the game, featuring names such as Zenon Konopka, Chris Neil and Matt Carkner. Clearly there was a message to be sent by Ottawa off the opening faceoff, however it ended up being a fake-out of sorts as no gloves were dropped. Two minutes later, though, all hell broke loose at Madison Square Garden, as Carkner took a run at Brian Boyle along the boards and proceeded to repeatedly pound Boyle’s face in while down. This was a retaliatory play to the couple of jabs Boyle took at young defenseman Erik Karlsson in Game 1. 

Meanwhile, while Carkner was full out beating on the face of a helpless Boyle, Brandon Dubinsky jumped into the scrum in defense of his linemate. When all was separated and penalties were sorted out, Carkner received a five-minute major for fighting in addition to a game misconduct. Brian Boyle did not receive a thing, but Brandon Dubinsky, too, was handed a game misconduct. The argument made by the officials was that Dubinsky entered the confrontation as the third man, which is an automatic ejection.

But considering the circumstances, with Carkner taking cheap shots at Boyle while Brian was down and helpless, should that have applied to Dubinsky in that situation? I do not think so, nor did Brandon, who chucked a Gatorade cooler on his way to the locker room. There’s a difference between entering a one-on-one to start trouble and entering a one-on-one to help a defenseless teammate. The latter, in my opinion, should not be penalized. 

This ugly start to the contest pretty much set the mood for the entire night. At no point was there any flow to this game, and the horrendous officiating didn’t help with that either. 

But the Rangers didn’t help themselves by registering just two shots on a five-minute powerplay that came out of the opening incident. So now you have to look at the Carkner for Dubinsky trade-off that the Senators successfully pulled off, and they then gained momentum by killing off the major. So for more reasons than one, the Rangers did not get off to the start that they would’ve liked on this night. 

Still, though, they were the first to get on the scoreboard when Anton Stralman’s slapper squeaked through the pads of Craig Anders at 10:11 of the first. It was not a surprise to see Stralman on the board, because he’s been one of the Rangers’ better defensemen through two games of this series, both offensively and defensively. 

New York held onto that lead until midway through the second period, when Carl Hagelin’s elbow drove into the head of Daniel Alfredsson to give the Senators a five-minute powerplay. The League will surely take a look at this play, and hopefully they do so close enough to realize Hagelin had no intention of elbowing Alfredsson on the play. Yes, Hagelin’s arms were up when he went in for the hit, but it was Alfredsson’s ducking motion that brought upon the head contact. 

Hagelin has no history of being a dirty player, and as pointed out, there was no intention there. Brendan Shanahan should take both points into consideration when reviewing the hit, but the fact that Alfredsson did not return to the game may have an impact on the final decision. It shouldn’t, but with the corrupt discipline system this League has, it will. 

Anyway, the Rangers did a fantastic job on the penalty-kill to limit the Senators’ chances and clear away all rebounds. That would eventually be spoiled by Erik Karlsson, whose centering feed deflected off defenseman Michael Del Zotto and past Henrik Lundqvist to tie the game at 1. 

While it is difficult to put any blame on Del Zotto for this goal, it was certainly preventable. A defenseman should never turn his skate toward the goal when a centering pass is cutting through the slot. He should either get out of the way or play it with his stick. Del Zotto took the skate approach and was burned. 

The Rangers would regain their lead at 2:41 of the third period, as a play started by Del Zotto in the neutral zone ended with Ruslan Fedotenko feeding Boyle for a one-timer that beat Anderson from the slot. Boyle and Fedotenko were the Blueshirts’ top two all around forwards tonight, so this was a goal well deserved. Plus it was a little poetic justice for Boyle, who was a victim of assault in the first period. 

The Rangers did their best to defend that 2-1 lead to the final buzzer, and they actually came very close to padding it with another goal on several occasions in that third stanza. But an unfortunate bounce off the leg of Marc Staal, who was down blocking a shot, landed on the stick of Nick Foligno in prime scoring position. Foligno easily put it in and to overtime this circus of a game would go. 

It seemed as if New York was slightly tentative to begin the extra period, and the Senators, I think, sensed this. They held back nothing and were coming strong on the attack, especially on the final faceoff of the game. Boyle losses a draw in the defensive zone and the Senators quickly started throwing everything at the net. Eventually it made its way there with Lundqvist making a stop. The puck then came out to the high slot, where a shot was fired but blocked by a sliding Ryan McDonagh. That block, though, went right to the skates of Neil, who found the puck and backhanded a shot past a frazzled Lundqvist to win the game for Ottawa and tie the series, 1-1. 

This is as tough as a game gets to analyze with the lack of flow and all that went on, so to put it simply, three unlucky bounces cost the Rangers in this game and eventually led to the tying of the series. Other than that, the Blueshirts really did not play a bad game. They handled surges, they worked for two goals of their own, their defense looked slightly better than it did in Game 1, so there is not a lot to complain about here. 

Give Ottawa credit for battling in all four periods. I thought Craig Anderson was magnificent in goal for the Senators, Erik Karlsson played much better than he did in Game 1, and they got some key support from secondary scorers at crucial times. I did not like the way they started the game or how they approached retaliating to Boyle, but I’ll admit that the start, all in all, benefitted the Senators greatly. They rode that momentum all the way to Neil’s game-winner. 

The series will now head to Ottawa for Games 3 and 4, where the Rangers will be looking to steal two from the Sens on away ice. I don’t think the team will have lost any confidence after this loss, because as I said, they didn’t play bad and were on the wrong side of bounces. They did a lot of good things tonight that can be built upon, and they need to go into Scotiabank Place with their heads held high. They don’t want the Senators picking up any more momentum than they already have. 

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