The Senators have battled the odds all season. Now, they have to do it one more time — with a lot at stake.
Coming off a 2-0 win over the New York Rangers Saturday at Madison Square Garden, the Senators woke up in the driver’s seat Sunday morning, positioned to pull off a huge upset.
Holding a 3-2 series lead with Game 6 Monday night at Scotiabank Place, the Senators have a chance to knock out the East’s No. 1 seed and they have no desire to return to Broadway for Game 7 Thursday.
If the Senators want rest, they better close this out. Sources say Round 2 is expected to begin Saturday and if the Senators are the only Canadian team alive, Hockey Night in Canada will demand they play that night.
Should the Senators have to play Thursday and then advance, they’d be forced to head immediately to their next destination because there would only be a one-day break.
The Rangers finished the season with 10 more wins and 17 more points than the Senators. But that has meant nothing. Ottawa has been the better team and the club can’t afford to let the Rangers off the mat.
“You want to try to finish it out as quick as you can,” said centre Jason Spezza. “You know it’s going to be tough. We don’t want to have to (go) back (to New York).
“Our focus is going to be rest and then get ready to go. We know they’re going to give us their best game.”
Are the Rangers good enough to beat the Senators? It certainly hasn’t looked that way. You could argue New York brought its best in Game 5 and still couldn’t beat Ottawa.
Goalie Craig Anderson gets a lot of credit for his 41-save shutout performance, but the credit should be spread around. Many of those chances came from the outside and the Rangers didn’t have many great opportunities.
The Senators have done a good job of making adjustments through the course of the first five games. Paul MacLean has done a masterful job of mixing it up every night and never letting the Rangers know what’s coming next.
“Everyone is buying in and on the same page with the way we’re playing,” said Anderson. “(MacLean) has established a certain way that we want to play. Nobody has deviated too far away from that.
“When we have structure, we have discipline and we work hard, more times than not we’re going to have success.”
Spezza said this hasn’t been easy.
“They do such a good job blocking shots and (Lundqvist) has been making a lot of good saves,” said Spezza. “What we’ve done is approach every game like it’s going to be 1-0 and I really think that’s a big reason we’ve had success.”
The Senators now have the chance to send the best team in the East packing. It was unthinkable two weeks ago. Now it’s possible and captain Daniel Alfredsson is poised to return from a concussion.
“We are looking forward to getting in front of our home fans and using some of that energy to our benefit,” said Anderson. “Nothing is being taken for granted. We know we've got to work hard and we've got to earn it.”
IN A CLINCH
Senators’ record when leading a series 3-2
1998 vs. New Jersey: Clinched Game 6 (4-2)
2002 vs. Toronto: Lost in Game 7 (4-3)
2003 vs. Philadelphia: Clinched Game 6 (4-2)