NEW YORK â€” Dion Phaneuf stared hard at his questioner for the briefest of moments before speaking slowly and emphatically. The veteran Ottawa defenceman wanted to be clear that he knows the Senators are fortunate to be in New York up two games on the Rangers.
“We like the position that we’re in but we also know we got lucky with the outcome of the last game,” Phaneuf said following the Senators’ practice at Madison Square Garden Monday in preparation for Tuesday night’s Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinal against the Rangers.
“We got outplayed. They played a better all-around game than (we did). We know we got away with one.”
Ottawa leads the best-of-seven series 2-0 following Saturday afternoon’s 6-5 double overtime win in which Jean-Gabriel Pageau scored four goals, including the game-winner 2:54 into the fifth period.
The Senators were outshot 48-34 and out-attempted 83-79 in a Game 2 which harkened back to the wide open 1980s NHL than the modern era’s system-laden game. And until Pageau’s game-winner â€” a snapshot past Henrik Lundqvist’s glove to conclude a 2-on-1 rush with Tommy Wingels â€” the Senators never led.
For a team whose foundation is based in strong structure in the neutral and defensive zones, what transpired at Canadian Tire Centre Saturday afternoon was disconcerting.
“We were going all out trying to score a goal and that doesn’t suit us at all,” Senators head coach Guy Boucher said. “We don’t look good when we’re like that. We lose our structure. We (opened the) floodgates. We gave space to an opponent that doesn’t need much space to get through you. They played great. They came out surging. They’re a great team. But at the same time we don’t need to do it on purpose for them to get the looks that they got the last game.
“So we just thought we needed to improve our mindset of ‘Yeah, we want to attack, but not attacking with four guys hoping that the damn thing goes in and forget the rest.’ Our approach wasn’t respectful approach towards such a great opponent. And I really believe in respecting the opponent. I think we know now that this is a great team with great speed, great depth and really well-coached. So we’re expecting the best that we’ve seen in the playoffs from any other team.”
Following the Game 2 loss, the Rangers flew back to New York. The team had Sunday off before reconvening Monday.
“This extra day off has been beneficial for our group. Both mentally and physically. It gave us–the coaches–one more day to prepare and to look at a few things, work on a few things with our players,” Alain Vigneault told reporters after the Rangers’ practice.
Vigneault later added New York has “to win tomorrow,” while noting the Rangers “understand what we have to do against (the Senators) to be successful.
“In my mind we’ve done it for six (of the eight) periods (in the series). We need to get a little bit better.”
Notes: Pageau scored the Senators’ first, fourth, fifth and sixth goals in recording his second career hat trick in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. His first came May 5, 2013, against the Canadiens. The NHL, citing Elias Sports Bureau, noted Pageau and Joffrey Lupul are the only players in league history to score four goals in a playoff game with the fourth being the game-winner.
Denis P. Gorman, The Canadian Press