The Ottawa Senators made it clear early and late with their fists and sticks that they aren’t going to be pushed around by the top-seeded New York Rangers.
Matt Carkner got back into the Ottawa lineup and made his presence felt right away by settling his club’s score in a one-sided fight with Rangers forward Brian Boyle. Chris Neil, known for his punches, delivered the final blow by scoring 1:17 into overtime to give the Senators a 3-2 victory in Game 2 Saturday night at Madison Square Garden.
The series heads to Ottawa tied, 1-1, and is assured of returning to New York for Game 5.
“It’s an exciting time to get a goal, for sure,’’ said Neil, who had 13 goals and 178 penalty minutes during the regular season. “It doesn’t matter to us. Numbers, statistics, that’s not for us. We’re a team, this is a team game, and it’s all about getting a win at this time of year.’’
Neil got to a loose puck in front off a rebound and backhanded the puck past goalie Henrik Lundqvist.
“We stressed getting pucks to the net, and getting traffic there, as well. That’s the kind of goals that you win with,’’ Neil said. “They are greasy goals, and we’ll take it. It’s big momentum for us and we’ve just got to keep on building on it.’’
The Rangers seemed poised to grab a 2-0 series lead when Boyle scored in the third period, but Nick Foligno tied it with 4:37 left in regulation.
Erik Karlsson also scored for the Senators, who exacted some revenge on Boyle for some shots he took at Karlsson during Game 1. A brawl led to the ejections of Carkner and New York forward Brandon Dubinsky just 2:15 in.
Anton Stralman had the other goal for the Rangers.
“We were four minutes away from winning the hockey game, and I still don’t think we played that poorly,’’ Rangers coach John Tortorella said. “But I do think we need to continue to attack.’’
Foligno forged a 2-2 tie when he got to a loose puck off a shot by Zenon Konopka that got past Rangers defenseman Marc Staal and slammed it up and over the sprawling Lundqvist from the edge of the crease.
Boyle was in line to be the star of the game when he fired in a shot from the slot, as he was being knocked sideways by a hit from Jesse Winchester. That gave the Rangers their second lead, 2-1, at 2:41 of the third.
Boyle was already the prime focus on a night in which he was targeted early and often by the Senators. He was jumped by Carkner along the side boards and absorbed numerous punches while he was up on his skates and after he fell to the ice and tried to cover up.
Dubinsky also was kicked out for being the third man in when he came to Boyle’s defense.
“It’s going to get elevated every night,’’ Boyle said about the intensity. “We have to keep trying to raise our game, raise our level of intensity throughout. I am sure they are going to do the same.’’
Craig Anderson made 27 saves, all in regulation, to earn the win for the eighth-seeded Senators. Lundqvist stopped 29 shots.
Usually mild-mannered rookie speedster Carl Hagelin landed a hard hit on Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson along the side boards in the Ottawa end. Hagelin got his elbow up and struck Alfredsson in the head, earning a major penalty.
Alfredsson didn’t return to the game.
“It’s the kind of hit that needs to be looked at, and the league will do that, I’m sure,’’ Karlsson said. “They’ll get it right. He’s one of our best players.’’
Tortorella said he didn’t think Hagelin would be suspended, but added if a ban is handed down then Ottawa’s Chris Phillips should also get one for elbowing Rangers captain Ryan Callahan in the final minute of the first period.
Blues 3, Sharks 0 - Brian Elliott and Jaroslav Halak combined for a shutout, San Jose put itself in an early hole when Marc-Edouard Vlasic tapped the puck into his own net, and host St. Louis evened the first-round series at a game apiece.
Vladimir Sobotka was credited with a goal on the first shot of the game after Vlasic’s gaffe. David Backes and Andy McDonald also scored, and T.J. Oshie had two assists in the Blues’ first playoff victory since 2004.
Halak’s left leg was bent underneath his body early in second period after Blues defenseman Barret Jackman slid into him. Halak finished with 12 saves, and Elliott stopped 17 shots the rest of the way.
The Blues announced midway through the second period that Halak was expected to return, but he never made it back. Elliott was hindered at the end of the regular season by an undisclosed upper-body injury, but was the backup for Game 1.
Halak and Elliott combined for 15 shutouts in the regular season, tying a modern NHL record, and won the Jennings Trophy for the fewest goals allowed.
Antti Niemi made 29 saves for the seventh-seeded Sharks.
The game turned feisty at the finish, with Blues defenseman Roman Polak and Sharks defenseman Justin Braun tangling after the final horn.
Blackhawks 4, Coyotes 3 - Bryan Bickell had his second goal of the game 11:36 into overtime as visiting Chicago beat Phoenix after scoring in the closing seconds of regulation for the second straight game.
Phoenix won the opener, 3-2, in overtime after giving up a goal to Brent Seabrook with 14 seconds left in regulation. Patrick Sharp did it to the Coyotes with even less time in Game 2, redirecting a shot by Patrick Kane with 5.5 seconds left.
The Blackhawks pulled it out this time, with Bickell beating Mike Smith from between the circles after Viktor Stalberg kept a pass by Rostislav Klesla in Phoenix’s zone.