The Ottawa Senators are headed to the Eastern Conference Final.
Ottawa completed its second-round series win over the New York Rangers on Tuesday at Madison Square Garden with a 4-2 victory in Game 6. It marked the first time a road team won a game in this series and clinched the Senators' first appearance in the Eastern Conference Final since they lost the 2007 Stanley Cup Final.
Mike Hoffman, Mark Stone, Erik Karlsson and Jean-Gabriel Pageau all scored for the victors, while goals from Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider weren't enough to counter for New York. Karlsson also assisted on Hoffman's goal and drew rave reviews from Bruce Arthur of the Toronto Star:
Bruce Arthur @bruce_arthur
Erik Karlsson: the best player in the playoffs so far2017-5-10 01:04:00
Karlsson wasn't the only Senators star Tuesday.
Goaltender Craig Anderson notched 37 saves on 39 shots and was particularly impressive at the start and end of the game. New York consistently attacked the crease in the final minutes with the desperation that corresponds to impending elimination, but Anderson stood strong.
He also saved all 13 of New York's shots in the first period and didn't allow a goal during the Rangers' eight minutes of power plays, six of which came in the first.
Dan Rosen of NHL.com praised Anderson's opening efforts:
Dan Rosen @drosennhl
This is the best Craig Anderson has looked since Game 1, and it's not even close. Finished first period with 13 saves.2017-5-10 00:20:07
Anderson's counterpart, Henrik Lundqvist, is one of the greats of his era but was a step too slow against Ottawa's attack, saving 22 of 25.
Ottawa tried a new strategy against Lundqvist and scored the initial goal for the first time all series, which set the tone. Hoffman silenced the home fans in the opening five minutes when he deflected Karlsson's shot into the net, which left Steve Warne of TSN 1200 stunned:
Steve Warne™ @TSNSteve
Scoring first? I feel light headed...2017-5-9 23:48:37
The Rangers were stunned as well when Stone glided up the left side and fired the second goal of the first period right past Lundqvist.
Stone's goal was upheld upon offside review, leading to an amusing reaction, as Graham Creech of TSN shared:
Graham Creech @creecher1200
Mark Stone is the greatest https://t.co/2Mrum8VVDg2017-5-10 00:14:25
Ottawa's third goal came when Karlsson buried a one-timer past Lundqvist, but a troublesome pattern of defensive breakdowns arose for the visitors after the first period.
Zibanejad and Kreider each broke free behind the defense in the second and third periods, respectively, and converted point-blank looks. Karlsson's goal came less than three minutes after Zibanejad's, which stopped some of New York's momentum, but Anderson was barraged by shots in the final two periods even when Ottawa was on the power play.
It is a credit to his performance he allowed just two shots through, and Pageau's open-netter in the final seconds clinched the win.
Ottawa survived and advanced behind Anderson and the four goals and will now wait for its Eastern Conference Final opponent, with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals squaring off in their Game 7 Wednesday.