New York Rangers (46-19-7) at Ottawa Senators (37-24-11)
|Date & Time||Thursday March 26, 2015, 7:30 PM (EDT)|
The Line: Ottawa Senators / New York Rangers --- Over/Under:
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Things started out well enough for the New York Rangers on Tuesday night, but after the first minute of play, that all went downhill.
Mats Zuccarello opened the scoring with his 13th goal of the season coming off a feed from J.T. Miller, but New York could not sustain any momentum moving forward. The Los Angeles Kings slowly got their legs underneath them and took it to New York the rest of the night in what was a highly anticipated Stanley Cup Finals rematch.
New York struggled in this game with a lot of the same things that caused them problems against the Kings last June in the Stanley Cup Finals. Los Angeles was able to use their size to cause turnovers and the Rangers were unable to get their transition game and speed going most of the night. Once the Kings started skating downhill in this one it was like a freight train that couldn’t be stopped. Cam Talbot did his best to keep the Rangers in the game as long as possible, but eventually Los Angeles was able to break through.
Marian Gaborik’s goal early in the second period snapped a 1-1 tie, and for the rest of the second period the Kings didn't allow any good scoring chances for the Rangers. Talbot was strong, but when the Kings converted just 1:05 into the third period to take a two goal lead the game was essentially over.
The Rangers missed an opportunity to take points away from the Kings and potentially keep them out of the post season. Heading into last night’s match up the Rangers were 11-1-1 in their 13 games against the Pacific Division this season, and their dominance over the Western Conference all season long has been impressive. The Kings are one club that the Rangers definitely don’t want to see again if they’re both still playing in June.
In Ottawa the Senators keep rolling along behind the play of goaltender Andrew Hammond. Despite getting banged up in Ottawa’s game on Monday night against the San Jose Sharks, Hammond is expected to be in the lineup against the Rangers on Thursday. Mika Zibanejad scored his 18th and 19th goals of the season against San Jose, but also left with an injury. All indications are that Zibanejad will be back in the lineup against the Rangers as well.
Ottawa trailed 2-1 heading into the third period, but dominated the final period on their way to a comfortable win. Zibanejad’s second goal of the night evened the score early in the third period, and Alex Chiasson snapped the tie with a beautiful deflection. Jean-Gabriel Pageau doubled the lead after he converted a beautiful give-and-go with Erik Karlsson on a 3-on-1, and Mike Hoffman’s 26th goal of the year came into the empty net to wrap up the 5-2 win.
Henrik Lundqvist should at least be on the bench for the Rangers on Thursday night, though there hasn’t been any confirmation that he will start. Odds are that Lundqvist will back up Talbot on Thursday and return to the lineup on Saturday afternoon against the Boston Bruins.
Ottawa is rolling right now and they’ll get a chance to knock off one of the best teams in the league and a potential first round playoff opponent in this one. The Rangers will have a lot to say about who gets that final playoff spot with back-to-back games against Ottawa and Boston. Despite how well the Rangers have played all year it’s hard to go against Ottawa right now until they prove otherwise.