NEW YORK – By the time the Ottawa Senators returned to their dressing room after playing the New York Rangers for 20 minutes in Game 3, they were forced to play catch-up.
Down 2-0 heading, the Senators were outshot 15-5 in the opening period and the snowball just continued down the hill and got bigger and bigger with New York increasing their lead to 4-0 at one point late in the second.
Forty-eight hours later, head coach Guy Boucher and his staff had plenty of tape to go over with their players in preparation for Game 4. Now the Senators understand just how vital it is for them to come out strong as they hold a 2-1 series lead.
“We’ve got to have a better start. We knew they were coming and didn’t seem to brace ourselves for whatever reason,” said Senators forward Bobby Ryan, who will be back in the lineup Thursday after leaving Game 3 with a foot injury.
The Rangers controlled the play for 40 minutes and built up a 4-1 lead before good ol’ score effects took over in the third period. By then, it was too late for the Senators.
“We have to come the way they came in Game 3,” Ryan added.
Ottawa is now on alert to be aware at another strong New York start. Their mistakes and the Rangers’ play forced them to chase the game. The Senators started to turn things around in the second period and finished with 22 shots in the final two periods, but as captain Erik Karlsson noted, they need to create some “chaos” in front of Henrik Lundqvist and manufacture some secondary chances and not allow him to have another easy night.
Boucher said they got away from their game on Tuesday night and it was too far away from a typical Senators performance during the 2016-17 NHL season.
“Our message was very simple: we need to be ourselves and to be ourselves we need the work ethic and the discipline that we normally display,” said Boucher, who characterized Ottawa’s Game 3 performance as being “slapped in the face.” “We didn’t have that in the last first period that we played here and the gap is way too big between their relentlessness and their desperation and us getting on the ice and just playing a game.”
It was in Game 4 last round that the Rangers turned their series around against the Montreal Canadiens. Was Game 3 the start of the bounce-back in this round?
“I think there’s momentum shifts during periods, during games,” said Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault. “When you have it you try and keep it. When you don’t have it you try and get it back as quick as you can.”
The Senators know how important Thursday night’s game is. Either they head back home for Game 5 on Saturday afternoon with the series as a best of three or they hit the ice at Canadian Tire Centre one victory away from the Eastern Conference Final. The latter is pretty nice carrot to have dangling above their heads.
Game 4 doesn’t have to be a complete 180-degree turn from Game 3 as the Rangers have plenty to play for as well and are good at forcing mistakes. But the Senators realize that winning in the playoffs doesn’t always have to have the look of perfection.
“We want to keep moving forward and we know we’re not always going to play the perfect game and play exactly the way that we want,” Karlsson said, “but during the times that we don’t, we need to find a way to not let it slip away from us and try and get it back as fast as possible, and today’s going to be a good game to try and execute that.”
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