NEW YORK -- The Ottawa Senators responded in every way possible Saturday night in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the New York Rangers.
After getting pushed around in a Game 1 loss, the Senators sent the message in the first period that would not be the case in Game 2. On the verge of sinking into an 0-2 hole against the top-seeded Rangers late in the third period, they answered with a game-tying goal.
Finally, it was Chris Neil scoring 1:17 into overtime to lift the Senators a 3-2 comeback victory at Madison Square Garden that evened the best-of-seven series at 1-1. The series resumes with Game 3 in Ottawa on Monday night.
Neil answered with his fists as well, dropping Rangers forward Brian Boyle in a quick second-period fight. That followed a first-period melee involving defenseman Matt Carkner unleashing a series of punches that knocked down Boyle, who would not drop his gloves. The ensuing fracas resulted in Carkner and Rangers forward Brandon Dubinsky receiving game misconducts just 2:15 into the bitterly intense contest.
Boyle was the focus of the Senators' attention for an incident in Game 1 where he roughed up Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson after a whistle. Senators coach Paul MacLean inserted Carkner and tough guy Zenon Konopka into the lineup for Game 2 in an attempt to add grit, and it worked almost to perfection.
"Erik's an elite player for us," Neil said. "I think he's a guy we have to look after. We didn't like what happened in Game 1 and we tried to come out and take care of it in Game 2. Boyle hung in there and did what he had to do, and he ended up getting a goal too. We didn't like what he did to Erik and we got to take care of that stuff."
Boyle wouldn't comment on the incident with Carkner, but didn't mind the Senators going with a more physical lineup and style in Game 2.
"Everything got raised," Boyle said. "They were going to come out and try to be physical. They were coming hard, playing hard, trying to win the game."
The heightened intensity worked in the Rangers' favor in the first period. After failing to convert on a five-minute major that came from Carkner's penalty, Anton Stralman buried a power-play goal at 10:11 to make it 1-0. His blast from the point deflected off the stick of Senators defenseman Chris Phillips and squeezed through the legs of goaltender Craig Anderson.
The second period turned in favor the Senators when Rangers forward Carl Hagelin was assessed a five-minute major for elbowing the head of Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson, who left the game and did not return. Karlsson made the Rangers pay when his pass from behind the net bounced off the skate of Rangers defenseman Michael Del Zotto and past Lundqvist to make it 1-1.
It appeared Boyle would have the last laugh when he put the Rangers ahead 2-1 early in the third period. Del Zotto intercepted a pass in the neutral zone and fed the puck to Ruslan Fedotenko, who crossed the blue line and dropped a pass to Boyle for the goal from the slot.
The Senators applied constant and furious pressure over the final 10 minutes, and it resulted in Nick Foligno's game-tying goal with 4:17 left in regulation. It started when Konopka fired a long shot toward the net that deflected through the legs of Rangers defenseman Marc Staal and onto the tape of Foligno, who roofed it over a fallen Lundqvist.
It was the consummation of an desperate attack by the Senators, who forced the Rangers into a protective defensive shell that eventually cracked.
"We were not as aggressive as we would've liked to have been," Staal said. "We want to still forecheck and make plays. We were skating backwards a bit and not as aggressive as we usually are and they ended up getting one."
Konopka, who wasn't put into the lineup by MacLean for his play-making ability, was the catalyst on the game-tying goal. Konopka was just as surprised about being in the lineup and making that play as anyone.
"Coming to the rink today, I didn't anticipate playing," said Konopka, who was making his Stanley Cup Playoffs debut. "Something changed and I got the opportunity to play. Everything is about opportunity. There's no wasted opportunity -- someone is going to pick it up and use it. You have to use it to your advantage. It's exciting. It's fun. This is why you train. This is why you sacrifice. It's to play in these games."
It all started with the Senators rallying around Karlsson, who logged a game-high of 30:06 of ice time and had 10 shots on goal.
"I think everybody kind of left the first game behind them," Karlsson said. "We wanted to come out this game a completely different team -- the team that we've been for the most part this season -- and I think we showed that right off the start here. We just followed that and kept going."
Lost in the shuffle of was the stellar play of Anderson, who made 27 saves to earn his third career postseason win. One of his best stops was a glove save on Rangers captain Ryan Callahan, who was all alone in front of the net but couldn't get the puck past Anderson with the Rangers leading 1-0 late in the first period.
Anderson was let down by his defense at times during Game 1, but he rose to the occasion in Game 2.
"He played phenomenal," teammate Jason Spezza said. "He's been a rock for us all year, made some huge saves to keep it tight and gave us a chance to tie it up. When your goaltender does that, it gives you a chance to win."
The Rangers will have to bounce back quickly for Game 3 after being so close to taking a commanding lead in the series.
"Win or lose, you have to," Rangers forward Brad Richards said. "Every team that makes the playoffs now can definitely win games. This isn't something we weren't prepared for. We wanted to win tonight, we wanted a 2-0 lead going back to them, but we're going to have to win games there. We have to take the good and learn from the bad."
Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo