The 30-year-old goaltender was sensational once again Saturday night, stopping 41 shots in the eighth-seeded Senators' 2-0 victory that gave his team a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series with Game 6 set for Monday night at Scotiabank Place.
Anderson's second career shutout is simply his latest virtuoso performance since allowing four goals in a Game 1 loss to the Rangers at Madison Square Garden. Since allowing the fourth goal in that game, Anderson has saved 130 of 135 shots (.963 save percentage) to push the East's top team to the brink of elimination.
"He's been phenomenal," said Senators forward Jason Spezza, who scored his first two goals of the series in the win. "He's been our rock all year and made big saves for us all year. He's continuing to do that. You can tell he's got a lot of poise and confidence in the net and he showed that tonight."
Perhaps Anderson's most important saves came during the second period with the Senators protecting a one-goal lead.
First, he stopped a shot by Brad Richards from the slot before denying Dan Girardi from the point and making a terrific stop on the rebound attempt by Brandon Dubinsky on the doorstep. The Rangers continued to pressure, but it ended when Ryan Callahan's sneaky bad-angle try was stopped and covered by Anderson.
Anderson made a few other difficult saves, including a pair on Marian Gaborik, but as goaltenders love to point out following a shutout, the Senators did a good job in front of their goaltender minimizing the quality of chances, clearing traffic and steering rebounds out of harm's way.
"Our guys did a great job of allowing me to see the puck," Anderson said. "Any type of rebound, we were able to clean those up pretty good. Sometimes when you get out to a lead, teams start to throw everything at the net from bad angles and whatnot, just trying to generate some offense. It works both ways. There's going to be opportunities when you're going to have to make a big save and there's opportunities where just that routine save is key to a victory."
Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who made 28 saves and played well in his own right, believes that while Anderson is playing extremely well right now, his teammates can make his life a little more difficult.
"He played well," Lundqvist said. "He's been playing well in the series. It's a challenge for us to win this. We have to keep working, have to keep pushing ourselves to play even better and get a little more involved in front of the net. The guys have been doing a great job. You can't work harder. The guys put everything out there."
The Senators scored what turned out to be the winning goal just 9:18 into the contest. Spezza snapped a shot through Lundqvist from the right side, but the play was started by 19-year-old Mark Stone, who was making his NHL debut after playing this season with the Brandon Wheat Kings of the WHL.
Stone, who said he felt he had a bad pregame warmup because he spent too much time looking around at the sellout crowd, took a pass at the Rangers' blue line from Filip Kuba. Stone waited for Spezza to drive the net and threaded a pass that eluded Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh and found Spezza in stride for the goal.
"We have been talking about Jason quite a bit," Senators coach Paul MacLean said, referring to his star center's lack of goals in the series before Saturday. "We stuck with him and tonight, he had opportunities. But I thought the play was made by Mark Stone. His first (game) in the National Hockey League, to make a play like that, it's pretty impressive."
The Rangers continued to struggle at 5-on-5 and now have two even-strength goals in the last 261:39 of the series. In Game 1, the Rangers struck for four even-strength goals but have now been outscored 8-2 at 5-on-5 since that blitz.
New York's power play also came up short in Game 5 after scoring twice in Game 4. The Rangers earned the game's first three power plays and had a chance to tie it on the man advantage late in the third period, but Anderson and the Senators held the fort with the outcome in the balance.
"I thought we played well tonight," Rangers captain Ryan Callahan said. "I thought we had a lot of chances and a lot of opportunities. We threw up 40 shots on net. We just have to bury one."
Rangers coach John Tortorella made a case that Game 5, despite the outcome, was his team's best performance of the series.
"I feel better about the team after tonight's game than a couple of wins that we've had," Tortorella said. "So we go to Ottawa and have to play the same way and keep banging away and see if we can score some goals. Everything about our game was good except our power play struggled, but that's why it's a series and they have to win four."
Spezza added an empty-net goal with 55.3 seconds remaining.
If the Rangers can't solve Anderson, the Senators won't have to worry about getting to four and pulling the monumental first-round upset.
"That was as good as I've seen him," MacLean said. "I thought he was really good at home (Wednesday) as well and I think he's been really good throughout this series."
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