NEW YORK â€” Derek Brassard stood in front of a semi-circle throng of reporters in the pin drop silent visitors’ dressing room inside Madison Square Garden and spoke.
His voice matched the volume in the room.
“Pretty much our all-around game, we need to be better,” Brassard said after the Ottawa Senators’ 4-1 loss to the New York Rangers in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinal.
The best-of-seven series is tied 2-2. Game 5 is Saturday afternoon at Canadian Tire Centre.
“We have the home ice now,” Brassard said. “We’re going to try to take advantage of it.”
The Senators entered New York having won the first two games in the series by an aggregate score of 8-6. They leave having been outscored by 8-2. What has gone wrong?
“We’re playing on our heels way too much,” Brassard said. “They’re making plays.”
Oscar Lindberg scored twice for the Rangers, and Nick Holden and Chris Kreider each added a goal. New York’s bottom six forwards did the heavy lifting offensively, as that group finished with two goals and five assists for seven points in the win. Tanner Glass recorded two assists, and the triumvirate of Kevin Hayes, J.T. Miller and Michael Grabner each had an assist.
“I believe in today’s game you have to have four lines that can play,” New York coach Alain Vigneault said. “If you expect to win, you’re going to need contributions from your whole team.”
Henrik Lundqvist made 22 saves.
Kyle Turris scored the Senators’ lone goal as Ottawa dropped its second straight in the series, but that’s a subplot to potentially three bigger issues. First is that captain Erik Karlsson did not play the third period. Karlsson, who said after the Game 6 win over Boston in the Eastern Conference quarter-final he had been playing with two hairline fractures in his left heel, fell awkwardly late in the second after battling for a puck along the boards with Miller. Karlsson finished with a shot and three attempted shots in 14:54 of ice time spanning the first two periods.
When asked if Karlsson could miss Saturday’s game Ottawa coach Guy Boucher said, “not for now.”
The second issue for Ottawa is that Craig Anderson allowed three goals on 20 shots in two periods before being replaced by Mike Condon. Condon stopped 9-of-10 shots in the third.
Boucher said the decision to sit Anderson was “to rest him (and) give (Condon) a chance to get in there.”
Finally, the Senators also lost their composure, especially in the third period. Dion Phaneuf was ejected late in the third for fighting Brendan Smith â€” who was also ejected â€” and Bobby Ryan was assessed a two-minute minor for slashing Dan Girardi and a 10-minute misconduct with 2:28 left.
The final 30 seconds of play devolved into a series of fights beginning with a bout involving Glass and Turris. The following faceoff saw the on-ice officiating crew have to break up wrestling matches involving Miller, Kreider, Marc Methot and Viktor Stalberg.
“It got a little heated,” Zack Smith said. “Frustration was probably a big part of it.”
During Wednesday’s off day, Boucher spoke about the need to play tighter defensively in the neutral zone and in their end of the ice. And the Senators’ structure was sounder than it had been in Games 2 and 3. The game resembled a modern-era playoff hockey instead of the free flowing style New York employs.
Yet it was the Rangers who opened the scoring for the fourth straight game with Holden’s perfectly placed shot between Anderson’s blocker and pad at 14:04 of the first giving New York a 1-0 lead. Holden’s goal was his first of 2017 playoffs and his fourth career goal in the Stanley Cup playoffs. He scored three times in Colorado’s seven playoff games in 2013-14.
The deficit after one period was 1-0. By the second intermission, it was 3-0 due to the play of Lindberg and New York’s fourth line.
It took just 2:01 for Lindberg to increase the lead to 2-0 on his second of the playoffs by tapping a cross-ice feed from Grabner to finish a 2 on 0. Thirteen minutes 53 seconds later, Lindberg hammered a heavy shot from the left side which ricocheted in and out of the net as Glass screened Anderson.
“They seemed to capitalize on their chances,” Boucher said.
Kreider’s power-play goal at 10:45 of the third pushed the lead to 4-0. Turris’ second of the playoffs at 13:34 ended the scoring.
Boucher also spoke about creating traffic in front of Lundqvist. And while the Senators did finish with 23 shots, the vast majority were harmless attempts from the perimeter. Perhaps Lundqvist’s most difficult stops were an in-tight chance from Jean-Gabriel Pageau in the first, and a sequence early in the third. Even Turris’ goal was an off-wing shot through the legs of a New York defender.
“We have to find a way to get more offence,” Brassard said. “More pressure.”
Denis P. Gorman, The Canadian Press