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NEW YORK -- For the first time this series, the New York Rangers surrendered the game's first goal. For the first time this series, the Rangers trail the Senators in the best-of-seven set. And for the first time this series, the Rangers face the threat of having their playoff hopes extinguished in stunning fashion.
Blanked by goaltender Craig Anderson's tremendous 41-save performance, the Rangers fell 2-0 in a pivotal Game 5 at Madison Square Garden that tipped the series 3-2 in the Senators' favor and has New York facing elimination in Game 6 on Monday in Ottawa.
|Losing Brian Boyle to a concussion won't help the Rangers' chances on Monday.|
And the odds are against the Rangers.
Only six teams in the post-lockout era have dropped Game 5 with the series tied 2-2 and gone on to advance.
"It's not a fun situation, that's for sure," goaltender Henrik Lundqvist said. "It's been a tight series all along, we have to regroup.
"This is far from over."
Even before the team's series savior, Brian Boyle, was concussed from Chris Neil's third-period hit, the Rangers' scoring woes were highlighted as Anderson stymied them from start to finish. The team was ushered off the ice with boos from the hometown crowd after three failed power-play attempts in the first. They came up short on a key power-play opportunity again in the third period.
The fans were clearly not pleased with the team's offensive effort and they have reason to gripe. The Rangers have scored only two even-strength goals in the past four games and have tallied only three goals in the past three games.
"Pucks will find their way in at some point," said alternate captain Brad Richards, who has one goal and two assists in the series.
The first-place Rangers never expected to coast against the eighth-seeded Senators, but they find themselves in a precarious position: with Ottawa poised to punch their second-round ticket with just one win back home at Scotiabank Place.
Led by first-line center Jason Spezza, who tallied both of Ottawa's goals Saturday night, the Senators have rallied around their loss of captain Daniel Alfredsson. Pulling off an upset could be more than a possibility.
The Rangers need to match that desperation and desire or else their hasty exit will be a disappointing underachievement that pockmarks an otherwise outstanding season.
"Still have to win two. It's no different now. Just have to win one in their building to keep us alive instead of closing it out. Win that one and bring it back here," Richards said. "It's just going to have to take seven games now and that's the reality of it."
The Rangers' success this entire season has been predicated on their wherewithal, not their dominance. Rather than rack up routs, they've had to grind teams down. Adversity has been their specialty, and coach John Tortorella hopes this is just another instance of that.
"Things happen for a reason and these types of situations, as you continue to go further in the playoffs, help you," he said.
This Senators team is more than up to meet that challenge. Heading into Game 6, the Rangers know that a battle -- and potential elimination -- awaits.
"All year long we've shown the resiliency to bounce back," defenseman Marc Staal said. "There's no quit in here. We'll be ready to go for Game 6."