The top-seeded New York Rangers will try to regain the upper hand in their deadlocked Eastern Conference quarterfinal series, as the Blueshirts visit the Ottawa Senators for tonight's Game 3 at Scotiabank Place.
The Rangers won the opener of this best-of-seven series in 4-2 fashion on Thursday at Madison Square Garden, but the eighth-seeded Senators were able to earn a split in New York after taking Saturday's Game 2 in overtime.
Chris Neil scored just 77 seconds into OT, lifting the Senators to a 3-2 victory over the Atlantic Division champions.
After a left circle faceoff win, Ottawa put a flurry of shots on net, but Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist was able to weather the initial storm. However, the Senators kept it in the zone and a blast from Jared Cowen was blocked by a Ranger, but Neil was at the left side to snap it home.
"That's playoff hockey," Senators center Jason Spezza said. "It's big goals from different guys and it's going to be like that. That's how we want to play. That's how we have to play to have success."
Erik Karlsson and Nick Foligno scored the other goals for Ottawa, while Craig Anderson stopped 27 shots for the win. The Senators, who were 20-17-4 at home this season, will also host Game 4 of this set on Wednesday, as they try to gain control of the series in Canada's capital city.
It wasn't all good news for Ottawa on Saturday, however, as Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson was knocked out of the game at 10:32 of the second period after Rangers forward Carl Hagelin drove his head into the glass. Hagelin, who was assessed a five-minute major penalty, was given a three-game suspension by the league on Sunday. Alfredsson is questionable for tonight's contest.
Hagelin's spot could be filled by 20-year-old rookie Chris Kreider, who joined the Rangers last week after finishing a stellar collegiate career at Boston College.
Lundqvist made 29 saves while Brain Boyle and Anton Stralman each lit the lamp for the Rangers, who are the top seed in the East for the first time since they won their last Stanley Cup title in 2004.
"There are going to be bad bounces, but you just have to move on," Lundqvist said. "They're a good team and create a lot of chances. I knew going into this series it wasn't going to be easy, so we just have to forget about this one and get ready for the next one."
Ottawa's Matt Carkner has been suspended for tonight's game for instigating a fight with Boyle, one that the Rangers forward did not participate in. Boyle was quickly knocked to the ice after several punches, and Carkner did not stop throwing haymakers until officials intervened.
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.
The Senators are in the playoffs for the third time since going to the Cup Finals in 2007 and they lost in the opening round in their last two postseasons. This marks the first time the Rangers and Senators are meeting in the playoffs.