New York Rangers needed was time to take a deep breath, relax and get comfortable during Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series with the Ottawa Senators.
With the Rangers clinging to a one-goal lead with their fingertips midway through the second period, coach John Tortorella called a timeout after two dominant shifts by the Senators. Ten seconds after play resumed, an offside whistle resulted in an extended television timeout that allowed the Rangers to calm themselves further.
The conversations that occurred during those stoppages had the desired effect. The Rangers scored on three of their next four shots to break open a tight game and roll to a 4-2 victory Thursday at Madison Square Garden, grabbing a 1-0 lead in the series with Game 2 set for the Saturday at MSG.
"We were caught out there on a couple long shifts and they were starting to get some momentum," Rangers defenseman Marc Staal said. "We kind of stopped making plays. We weren't making passes. It was more just to calm us down, remind us to make plays, make passes, make sure we're confident with the puck. I thought after that, everyone kind of settled down and we kind of started to take the period over."
Marian Gaborik didn't begin the goal-scoring onslaught until there was 3:36 remaining in the period, but the shift that followed the timeouts by his line with Brad Richards and Carl Hagelin set the tone for the rest of the game.
The unit peppered goaltender Craig Anderson, who was extremely sharp over the first 30 minutes before defensive breakdowns turned the tide, with four shots in the next minute. Hagelin was denied on a 2-on-1 and Richards was turned aside twice on a pair of great scoring chances before Anderson drew a whistle after another stop on Hagelin.
The shift didn't bear any fruit, but it planted the seeds for the next 12 minutes.
"We talked, the three of us on the bench, that we had to get something going," Richards said. "We had a good first shift, but it was kind of up and down after that. There wasn't much going on. We talked about it. It was right after the timeout there. We had a chat on the bench about holding onto pucks and we ended up getting a few scoring chances. It probably resulted in getting us a little bit more relaxed with the puck and Gabby scored the goal."
Gaborik's goal that made it 2-0 was the result of a turnover by Senators defenseman Jared Cowen. Gaborik drove to the net unaccosted and beat a helpless Anderson to get the ball rolling.
Brian Boyle made it 3-0 with 53.8 seconds left off a creative setup by linemate Artem Anisimov, who had two assists -- but none prettier than his pass while falling to the ice that teed up Boyle for his first career postseason goal.
Boyle, who dipped to 11 goals this season after a career-best 21 last season, now has six goals in his past 10 games including the regular season. What's working now for him that wasn't working through most of the season?
"I don't know and I don't care," Boyle quipped, before praising Anisimov.
"He made some really good plays. He's going to be huge for us. He's come a long way. I remember playing against him [at the AHL level] when he was in Hartford and I was in Manchester [as a member of Los Angeles Kings]. He's always had the skill. He's going into those areas. He won some battles. He won some draws. I get to sit next to him everywhere. You guys might not know it, but the guy never shuts up. He's a great kid. We're going to need him."
Richards drove the nail in the coffin 2:15 into the third period when he buried a pass from Hagelin to make it 4-0. The Senators made the final score more palatable with goals from Daniel Alfredsson and Erik Condra -- who scored his first playoff goal in his first career postseason game -- but the onslaught after the timeout was too much to overcome.
"They played better than us in the rest of the second there, and then obviously we're down three," Senators defenseman Sergei Gonchar said. "I think they did a better job on their forecheck than we did on ours, and forcing turnovers. That's the difference. We made some mistakes in our end. We weren't as opportunistic either."
Captain Ryan Callahan got the ball rolling for the Rangers in the first period, sweeping home the rebound of Anton Stralman's shot to make 1-0 at 12:01. Anderson made the initial save, but the rebound bounced right onto the stick of Callahan, who made no mistake with the net mostly vacated.
"That's the way we have to play," Callahan said. "We felt like we have been playing playoff hockey throughout the season. That's the way we have to play, take pucks down low and grind them out and bring pucks to the net. When we did that, I thought we were successful."
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