NEW YORK– As a lower-line center, Rangers forward Oscar Lindberg had not recorded a single goal in his first 10-career playoff games. After tallying one in Game 3, Lindberg added another two during Thursday night’s Game 4 to fuel the Rangers to a second-straight 4-1 victory over the Ottawa Senators, tying their Eastern Conference semifinal series at two games apiece.
After losing six-straight home playoff games at Madison Square Garden, the Rangers have now won four-in-a-row dating back to the first round against the Montreal Canadiens.
Just like they did in Game 3 on Tuesday night, the Rangers asserted their will early.
Michael Grabner had the first big chance of the night just 1:30 in when he was sprung loose on a breakaway, but his wrister was turned aside by Craig Anderson.
Ottawa exhibited some urgency compared to Game 3, in the early stages at least. After recording just five shots through the first period on Tuesday, they had four in the opening three minutes of Game 4.
Their offensive gusto disappeared as the Rangers continued to apply steady pressure. With 5:56 left in the first, defenseman Nick Holden was sent in alone on Anderson and with what might have been the dangle of his life, waited just long enough to pop the puck over the statuesque goalie’s pad and into the back of the net.
It was the Rangers’ fifth goal dating back to Game 3 and Holden was the fifth different New York scorer, something he did not lose sight of.
“We’ve been very fortunate that our guys have continued to score,” Holden said. “In the playoffs here, if you look at teams who win, they have such great depth. Technically, our fourth line scored a few goals tonight, which is huge.”
When asked if he could number the Rangers’ lines given their scoring depth, Holden simply smiled and claimed there were “lines 1A, B, C, and D.”
Ottawa looked for a quick answer, but the perfect embodiment of its time in New York came when Erik Karlsson, an annual Norris Trophy contender, saw his stick disintegrate while attempting to get off an uncontested wrist shot just a few feet in front of Henrik Lundqvist.
“Yeah [I think we’ve been frustrating them],” Lindberg said. “It’s tough to play against [our style] and we just have to keep it going.”
After those quick four shots, the Senators were held to just three more in the final 17 minutes of the period and could only get 23 goals through to Lundqvist all night.
Just like the first period, Grabner was sent in on another breakaway two minutes into the second. This time, he opted not to take the shot, dishing it off to the fourth-liner Lindberg instead who snapped a one-timer past Anderson make it 2-0.
“As long as we’re getting chances, I think that’s the most important part,” Grabner said. “Obviously I’m going to try and score on the next one.”
Their work won the admiration of Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault, too.
“I’ve said this many times this year we have to have four lines that can play,” he said. “Definitely tonight Oscar’s line came up big for us with a couple of big plays. If you expect to win you’re going to need contributions from your whole team and we definitely got that tonight.”
Lindberg nabbed his second of the night with four minutes remaining in the period. After Tanner Glass’ aggressive forecheck presented a loose puck in the Ottawa zone, Lindberg simply wheeled and fired from above the left face-off circle. With Glass right in front of the net, Anderson was screened and simply missed the Linberg’s shot.
Lindberg had no explanation of how his scoring fortunes turned around so quickly.
“I don’t know, maybe coincidence?” he pondered. “I think our lines have been doing a really good job on getting pucks back from the forecheck.”
A lot of the credit had to go to Glass given his hard work and allowing the chance to get to Lindberg.
“Look at these assists. They are not exactly play-making assists,” Glass said. “They are just kind of the gritty, grinding game I bring. Sometimes it ends up in the back of the net.”
As if the flat Senators didn’t need any more issues to contend with, Anderson was pulled for Mike Condon and Karlsson, who is dealing with two stress fractures in his left foot, did not come out for the third period.
After the game, Guy Boucher said that he wanted to just rest the both of them.
It didn’t stop the Rangers from adding a fourth on the power play. Just seconds after Clarke MacArthur went off for a hook, Chris Kreider cleaned up the rebound left by Condon after turning away a slap shot from Ryan McDonagh on the point.
With the game iced, the Senators managed to pull one back after Kyle Turris’ wrister from the left circle beat Lundqvist over the shoulder.
It was far too little, far too late as the Senators attempted to snag some momentum before Game 5 by goading the Rangers and getting under their skin.
The final three minutes were littered with scuffles and penalties alike, including Glass clocking Turris in the jaw after the Rangers winger was jumped in the corner.
Given the way they performed at home, those final few minutes might have been the hardest moments New York had while at Madison Square Garden, though Lindberg didn’t necessarily agree.
“I wouldn’t say it’s been easy,” Lindberg said. “We’ve just been making it tougher on their D and from doing that, I think we’ve been able to get some more pucks back and spend a longer time in their zone.”