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Rangers vs Senators - 2012 Stanley Cup Conference Quarterfinals

Five reasons Senators couldn't quite pull off upset

Erin Nicks - Correspondent

OTTAWA -- At the beginning of the season, no one could have predicted that the Ottawa Senators would be in a playoff spot, let alone push a No. 1 seed like the New York Rangers to the brink of elimination. The group of veterans and fresh-faced young players overachieved at nearly every turn, but they were unable to knock out the Rangers when it counted.

Alfredsson undecided on his NHL future

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

Daniel Alfredsson
Right Wing - OTT
GOALS: 2 | ASST: 0 | PTS: 2
SOG: 15 | +/-: -3
NEW YORK -- Daniel Alfredsson was feeling empty inside in the moments after Game 7 Thursday. Even the Ottawa Senators' captain isn't quite sure how the loss will mean for him going forward.

Alfredsson, 39, has not committed to playing a 17th season, so there is a very real possibility that the 2-1 loss to the New York Rangers that ended the Senators' season will be his last game in the NHL.

"I don't know," he said well after he was showered and just before leaving Madison Square Garden. "After we have our meetings in a couple of days with coaches and management, I'll spend some time with the family and go from there."

Staal and Girardi do it all for Rangers

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

NEW YORK -- Dan Girardi looked fresh, like he could play another 26 minutes. Marc Staal looked beat, like he would be sick if he had to play yet another 27 minutes.

Marc Staal
Defense - NYR
GOALS: 1 | ASST: 1 | PTS: 2
SOG: 9 | +/-: 0
That's the difference between playing a full season (Girardi) on the Rangers' blue line and a half season (Staal). But the Rangers will take a tired, sitting Staal and an energetic, upright Girardi after every game if they're going to continue to be as important and impressive as they were Thursday in a 2-1 Game 7 win against Ottawa at Madison Square Garden.

Staal scored the first goal of the game and logged a team-high 26:44 of ice time. Girardi scored the second goal, the game-winner, and logged exactly 25:49.

They each had three blocked shots -- one of Girardi's saved a would-be goal by Filip Kuba during a Senators' power play late in the first period. They were on the ice together for a roughly three-minute shift late in the third period, denying the Senators the tying goal by keeping the shots to the outside and the middle of the ice as clean as possible.

Senators say pressure squarely on Rangers' shoulders

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

NEW YORK -- Without question the Senators still feel pressure to win Game 7. Hey, they don't want their season to end just yet.

But if you want to talk about pressure, the Senators say you better start with the home team Thursday night at Madison Square Garden.

"I think it's just the reality of the situation," Senators forward Jason Spezza said. "They almost won the Presidents' Trophy, finished first and spend to the cap. Their expectations were bigger than ours coming into the year. So, it's just a reality. That doesn't mean we don't want to win the game any less. The reality is we've been that team at the top and if you lose in the first round it's a disappointing year, where for us, we're just trying to build a foundation and move forward. But we still feel we can win, too."

Sens hoping this game won't be Alfredsson's last

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

NEW YORK -- Daniel Alfredsson might be suiting up for the final time in his illustrious career Thursday night. Then again, he might only be in the early stages of a long playoff run that could energize him to play another season.

Ottawa's 39-year-old captain has reached a crossroads in his career. He has some control of the situation in Game 7 against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden (7 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC, RDS), and total control of his future if the Senators were to fall on the wrong end of the scoreboard.

He admitted Thursday morning that he has thought about himself and reflected on his career since the end of Game 6, but only very little because it does him no good to have those internal emotional battles with so much still on the line.

"I did a little bit the other day read some comments about (Nicklas) Lidstrom, but at the same time I just try to stay here and now, take it day-by-day, enjoy it, make the most of it and we'll see after," Alfredsson said. "Especially in the playoffs, it takes a lot of energy to get ready and you can get distracted, but I just focus on today."

Early returns positive as Kreider earns Rangers' trust

Dave Lozo - Staff Writer

NEW YORK -- The arrival of Chris Kreider in the Stanley Cup Playoffs is as remarkable as it is unexpected.

Eighteen days ago, Kreider was a junior at Boston College celebrating his second national championship in three seasons. The 20-year-old from Boxford, Mass., spent the hours after the victory celebrating with teammates and family in Tampa, Fla., in what turned out to be one of his final nights as a genuine college kid.

The following day, Kreider received a call from the New York Rangers asking if he would forego his senior season and join the club for the postseason. The Rangers thought so much of the 6-foot-3, 230-pound left wing that they burned the first year of his three-year entry-level deal just to have him in the fold before taking on the Ottawa Senators.

Rangers coach John Tortorella admitted before Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals that he didn't know much about him, and Kreider said he hadn't talked with Tortorella before his first practice with the team. Tortorella, perhaps preparing for an onslaught of questions about a player who had never skated in the NHL, delivered a statement about how he welcomed Kreider to the club and would not take questions.

Rangers can draw on season's worth of experiences

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- The New York Rangers started their year with a two-week, four-country tour of Europe that included back-to-back regular season games in Stockholm. They welcomed the HBO cameras into their lives for a five-week invasion of privacy that was so well-documented in the "24/7" documentary series.

They then played and won the most hyped regular-season game in the NHL season, the 2012 Bridgestone Winter Classic, in Philadelphia. They followed that up by holding off the surging Penguins and Flyers to win the Atlantic Division and capture the top seed in the Eastern Conference.

If that wasn't enough, with their season on the line Monday in Ottawa, the Rangers came back from a 1-0 deficit by scoring three times over the final 11:05 of the second period to stay alive with a 3-2 win.

It's all led to Thursday, to Game 7 against the Ottawa Senators at Madison Square Garden, the first Game 7 at the old building in midtown Manhattan since the 1994 Stanley Cup Final.

No, the Rangers will not be thinking about all they went through together as a team this season, but yes, they do believe the experiences matter heading into the most important and potentially the last game of their season.

MacLean has transformed Senators in first season

Dave Lozo - Staff Writer

In his first season as coach of the Ottawa Senators, Paul MacLean developed a reputation as a player's coach, someone who preferred positive reinforcement over constant criticism.

But through the first 10 days of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, MacLean was showing his stern, more serious side in dealing with the media. He kept his answers short and wasn't eager to divulge information on his players no matter the angle of the question.

Kreider's first NHL goal is a huge one

Dave Lozo - Staff Writer

OTTAWA -- In a pair of losses that pushed the New York Rangers to the brink of elimination, there was a crippling lack of offense that made all the difference against the Ottawa Senators.

In Game 4, the Rangers jumped to a 2-0 lead and had several opportunities to stick a dagger in the Senators, but instead failed to score that third goal and wound up losing 3-2 in overtime.

In Game 5, the Rangers were longing for the little offense they had in the previous contest. Senators goaltender Craig Anderson made 41 saves to give the Senators a 1-0 victory and 3-2 lead in the series.

Game 6 had a chance to head in a similar direction to that of Game 4, but rookie Chris Kreider, who was playing in just his fourth career game, drove the stake through Ottawa's heart with his first career goal.

MacLean thinks Sens need to be more desperate

Erin Nicks - Correspondent

OTTAWA – With the game slipping away and his power play in shambles, Ottawa Senators coach Paul MacLean made the unorthodox decision to sit three of his stars – Milan Michalek, Daniel Alfredsson and Jason Spezza – to begin the third period of Monday night's 3-2 loss to the New York Rangers at Scotiabank Place.

Jason Spezza
Center - OTT
GOALS: 3 | ASST: 2 | PTS: 5
SOG: 19 | +/-: 3
The trio was nowhere to be found during an Ottawa power play after Brandon Prust was called for tripping at 1:44. Michalek was first to hit the ice at 4:44, Alfredsson followed 10 seconds later and Spezza didn't take his first shift until 6:50.

"The [second] unit had scored on the power play in the first period, so we put them on the ice to start that [power play]," MacLean said.

Spezza, the club's No. 1 center, only took six shifts in the third period. Spezza appeared to struggle throughout the majority of the game, and was having difficulty connecting on his passes. Spezza was curt when asked why he was held off the ice, particularly during the man-advantage.

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