The top-seeded New York Rangers will try to take a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarterfinals when they host the Ottawa Senators tonight at Madison Square Garden.
The Rangers, winners of the Atlantic Division title, used a strong performance from their star goaltender in winning the opener of this series in 4-2 fashion on Thursday night.
New York, which claimed its first division title and No. 1 seed since winning its last Stanley Cup title in 1994, led Game 1 by a 4-0 score at one point, and despite allowing two late goals, Henrik Lundqvist turned in an impressive performance, stopping 30-of-32 shots.
"It's exciting, it's fun. You go out there and feel the support [from the fans], that's why you play," said Lundqvist. "It's really fun to go out there, especially after you pull off a big win in the first game."
Marian Gaborik, Brad Richards, Brian Boyle and Ryan Callahan all scored for New York, which is looking for its first playoff series victory since 2008.
"I thought a number of guys, not just the big guys, but I thought a number of guys contributed," said New York head coach John Tortorella. "We didn't lose ourselves. We were fore-checking pretty good, they pinched hard, they had us bottled up, but we stayed within ourselves and found our game, the way we play. We found a way."
Meanwhile, Ottawa goaltender Craig Anderson was tagged for all four goals on 31 shots for the Senators, who have made the playoffs just twice since going to the Cup Finals in 2007 and have lost in the opening round both times. This marks the first time the Rangers and Senators are meeting in the playoffs.
Daniel Alfredsson and Erik Condra scored in the second half of the third period to keep the game from being a rout.
"We were pretty pleased with the way things went in the first period and thought we were generating some chances in the second period," said Ottawa head coach Paul MacLean. "But there was those last couple of minutes in the second where we made some mistakes and it killed us."
The Senators get a chance to even the series tonight before it shifts to Ottawa for Games 3 and 4 on Monday and Wednesday, respectively. The Sens actually had a slightly better record on the road this season, going 21-14-6 as the guest compared to a 20-17-4 mark at Scotiabank Place. Meanwhile, the Rangers were 27-12-2 at MSG in 2011-12 and 24-12-5 on the road.
"The feeling is still up," Ottawa forward Jason Spezza told his club's official web site. "You have to be prepared to lose games in the playoffs and we're not going to win them all. We're still optimistic we can make this a series and beat these guys. We've just got to play a little bit better."
The Rangers haven't won a playoff round since ousting New Jersey in the 2008 conference quarterfinals and the Blueshirts have since lost four straight postseason series.
Ottawa won three of four matchups against the Rangers during the regular season and the Sens took the final two encounters by a combined 7-1 margin.