Senators back in conference finals for 1st time in 10 years
NEW YORK – Erik Karlsson and the Senators have goals this season beyond the Eastern Conference finals.
Still, Ottawa planned to enjoy the achievement for a night before getting back to work. After all, it's been a while.
Karlsson had a goal and an assist to help the Senators reached the third round of the playoffs for the first time in a decade by eliminating the New York Rangers 4-2 in Game 6 on Tuesday night.
"We have a long way to go here," Karlsson said. "We're going to enjoy this for a little bit and again, get back to work as soon as tomorrow."
Ottawa will face either Pittsburgh or Washington in its first trip to the third round since going to the Stanley Cup Final in 2007. The Penguins and Capitals will play Game 7 of their series Wednesday night.
After outlasting Boston in six games during a first-round series featuring four OT finishes, the resilient Senators outworked the Rangers at Madison Square Garden. Ottawa won all three games at home — each by one goal — including two that went to overtime after the Senators tied it in the closing minutes. That included Game 2, in which Jean-Gabriel Pageau scored twice in the final 3 1/2 minutes of regulation, and then won it with his fourth of the game in the second extra period.
The Rangers tied the series with two dominant 4-1 wins at Madison Square Garden, but the Senators returned home and won Game 5 in overtime to take the lead and then finished off the Rangers in New York.
"Over the course of the series, we were the better team for three games," Karlsson said. "And the fourth, we had Pageau."
After their successful rallies against New York in Ottawa, the Senators had to hold off the desperate Rangers near the end of Game 6. Chris Kreider scored early in the third period to make it 3-2, but the Senators held firm from there. Craig Anderson finished with 37 saves, and Pageau clinched the series with an empty-netter with 6.2 seconds left for his seventh goal of the postseason.
"The four games we lost in this series, it's as simple as them making one more play defensively or one more play offensively," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. "We were in all of those games, we didn't make the defensive play when we needed to and we didn't make the offensive play to bury them. You have to give them a lot of credit. They played well and they deserved to win."
Ottawa led 2-0 after 20 minutes despite being outshot 13-10. New York had three power plays and more scoring chances, but the Senators were aggressive on defense while blocking nine shots in the opening period — and 20 for the game. Whatever got past the defense was stopped by Anderson.
"I thought the players have shown again, character," Ottawa coach Guy Boucher said. "We didn't have two good games here and so I think the players reloaded emotionally, mentally and physically real well for home and then we wanted to do the same for this game. ... The players were extremely poised. They looked really rested and had a lot of energy."
Mike Hoffman put Ottawa in front 4:27 into the game when he deflected a shot from Karlsson past Henrik Lundqvist for his fourth of the playoffs. It came on the Senators' second shot on goal of the game and marked the first time Ottawa scored first in the series.
Mark Stone doubled the lead with 5:16 left in the first with his fourth of postseason.
Mika Zibanejad got the Rangers on the scoreboard with about 6 1/2 minutes left in the second, but Karlsson beat Lundqvist on the blocker side with 4:07 remaining in the period to restore the Senators' two-goal lead.
Follow Vin Cherwoo at www.twitter.com/VinCherwooAP
More AP hockey: https://www.apnews.com/tag/NHLhockey