The eighth-seeded Ottawa Senators will try to complete a surprising first-round upset tonight, as they host the New York Rangers in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals at Scotiabank Place.
Ottawa has taken the last two meetings to grab a 3-2 series lead over the Rangers, who entered this postseason as the top seed in the East for the first time since they won their last Stanley Cup title in 1994.
With a win tonight, the Senators can become the 11th No. 8 seed to upset a No. 1 since the current playoff format began in 1994. The Los Angeles Kings became the 10th team to pull off that upset on Sunday when they eliminated the top- seeded Vancouver Canucks in the Western Conference quarterfinals.
The Senators used a magnificent performance from goaltender Craig Anderson to take Saturday's Game 5 in New York City. Anderson posted 41 saves for his first shutout of these playoffs and Jason Spezza scored twice to help Ottawa claim a 2-0 decision at Madison Square Garden.
Ottawa was 20-17-4 as the host during the regular season and split Games 3 and 4 with the Rangers on home ice. New York, which also won its first Atlantic Division title since '94 this season, was 24-12-5 as the guest in the regular season. If the Rangers can avoid elimination tonight, then they'll host the Senators for a decisive Game 7 on Thursday.
Anderson was busy in the first period on Saturday, as he turned aside 14 shots from the Rangers, helping his team kill off three penalties in the process. The 30-year-old goaltender stopped 12 shots in the second period and 15 in the third to record the second shutout of his playoff career. Anderson's other postseason shutout came with Colorado in 2010.
"I thought the penalty kill in the first period was outstanding and Anderson was equally as good," said Ottawa head coach Paul MacLean. "We really didn't control much in the game, but he was strong from start to finish."
Spezza, who was second on Ottawa with 34 goals in the regular season, notched his first two markers of this series. His first tally came at 9:18 of the first period and Spezza would later seal the game with an empty-netter in the final minute of regulation.
Henrik Lundqvist did all he could in Game 5 for the Rangers with 27 saves on 28 shots, but it wasn't enough to keep the Rangers from losing the pivotal contest.
"We played well and did a lot of good things, but unfortunately we couldn't score today," said Lundqvist. "It hurts. It was a big game. We did a lot of good things, but it comes down to that last touch, and we didn't have it tonight."
The Rangers now face the prospect of a first-round exit for their third consecutive postseason. New York hasn't won a playoff series since beating the New Jersey Devils in the 2008 conference quarterfinals. Ottawa hasn't won a playoff series since reaching the Stanley Cup Finals in 2007.
New York hopes the return of forward Carl Hagelin can help it stay alive tonight. Hagelin was suspended for three games for an illegal hit on Ottawa captain Daniel Alfredsson in Game 2, but the rookie is eligible to return tonight. Alfredsson has been out with a concussion since the hit, but he is expected to play tonight.
The Rangers lost one of their own players to a concussion in Game 5, as Brian Boyle suffered a head injury after taking a big hit from Ottawa's Chris Neil. Boyle, who has three goals in this series, will not play tonight and Neil will not face a suspension for the hit.