The math is simple for the New York Rangers. They must win one game to keep their season alive.
“Our life is on the line and we have to play for it,” captain Ryan Callahan said after the Rangers dropped a 1-0 decision to the Senators in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals at the Garden Saturday night.
Game 6 is Monday night at Scotiabank Place. The Rangers are 21-15-4-1 all-time in Ottawa since the second reincarnation of the Senators in 1992-93.
“So we go to Ottawa and have to play the same way and keep banging away and see if we can score some goals,” said Rangers coach John Tortorella, who was pleased with his team’s effort. “It’s a series and they have to win four.”
Henrik Lundqvist was brilliant in defeat. He turned away 29 shots of 30 shots. The presumptive Vezina Trophy winner’s lone mistake was allowing Jason Spezza’s wrist shot to beat him five hole 9:18 into the game. The goal was Spezza’s first in playoff competition since April 20, 2010. He added an empty-netter with 56 seconds left in the game.
The Rangers spoke the last two days about creating chances and did that in this game, firing 41 shots at Craig Anderson. Shots were generated, but traffic was not. As a result, he finished with 41 saves and heads into Game 6 with a 1.80 goals against and a .943 save percentage in the five games.
“[We have to] keep plugging away,” Brad Richards said. “We had two the last game on him. We’re confident that if we do that the next game, we’ll have a good chance of winning.”
On a night in which many stepped to the forefront, Chris Kreider was noticeable. He finished with a shot on goal and a hit in 7:34. He was able to use his speed to back off Ottawa defenders through the neutral zone.
“Yes, I do. I see him [getting] more minutes because some other guys haven’t done the job. He’s an interesting cat,” Tortorella said, then noted that Kreider was “absolutely not” an “automatic” out in the lineup Monday due to the return of Carl Hagelin from suspension.
The Rangers have missed Hagelin’s speed on the forecheck. Ottawa has seemingly been able to get to every loose puck in the last three games.
“He’s a quick guy, gets in on the forecheck, makes their ‘D’ think twice about being aggressive and he opens the ice up for some guys,” Marc Staal said of the Rangers’ rookie left wing. “I’m sure he’s excited to get back in [the lineup] and we’re excited to get him back.”
Hagelin’s return could coincide with the loss of Brian Boyle. Tortorella announced that Boyle was “concussed” and out after absorbing an elbow to the head from Chris Neil in the third period.
“Exact same hit as [Phoenix Coyote Raffi] Torres,” Tortorella said. The NHL announced Saturday afternoon that Torres was suspended 25 games for elbowing Chicago Blackhawk Marian Hossa in Game 3 of that series. “He launches himself, head shot, puck’s at the goal line when he’s hit. The blueprint’s there. He’s a repeat offender, too. Not too much research to be done there.
“There’s a blueprint,” Tortorella added. “It’s just a dangerous, dangerous, cheap hit. It’s the exact same play as Torres.”
The Rangers believe their collective confidence in themselves and their one-day-at-a-time mantra will be a benefit heading into Monday’s do-or-die game.
“We have to go to Ottawa and win the hockey game,” Callahan said. “We have a resilient group and we have confidence. We have to win that one and come back here and see what happens.”
Added Lundqvist: “We’re right there.”
Follow Rangers beat writer Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman as the team heads for an elimination game in Ottawa.