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Rangers reeling after playing 'really well' in Game 2 loss

Looking for answers after blowing two-goal lead in final minutes against Senators

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

OTTAWA -- The sting the New York Rangers felt as they departed Canadian Tire Centre on Saturday will last at least until Monday, when they get back on the ice for practice.

The Rangers were 62 seconds away from getting the split they were looking for here, from going home tied 1-1 with the Ottawa Senators in the Eastern Conference Second Round.

Nope.

Jean-Gabriel Pageau was the difference in Ottawa's 6-5 double-overtime win in Game 2. He scored four goals, including two in the final 3:19 of regulation and the winner at 2:54 of the second overtime to give the Senators a 2-0 lead in the best-of-7 series.

 

[RELATED: Complete Rangers vs. Senators series coverage]

 

"It [stinks] right now," New York center Derek Stepan said. "You never want to lose a playoff game, especially one you played really well in."

The Rangers did play well for the most part. Even Pageau said he didn't think the Senators deserved to win the game.

"We didn't play the way we wanted, or I can say they really came out hard," he said.

Video: NYR@OTT, Gm2: Pageau nets second with redirect

The Rangers talked after Game 1 about the need to be better on the penalty kill. They scored two shorthanded goals and limited Ottawa to 0-for-4 with zero shots on the power play.

They wanted to get more out of some of their top offensive players. Chris Kreider scored his first goal of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs and was a force all game. Stepan scored a shorthanded goal one day after saying he has "stunk since the playoffs started."

Brady Skjei had two goals and made several key defensive plays in a bounce-back performance from a sour Game 1. Michael Grabner's speed was apparent and a problem for the Senators. J.T. Miller was better. Mika Zibanejad was too.

"We spent a lot of time in their end, we had some good looks," coach Alain Vigneault said. "They got a couple tips that found a way into the back of our net. But I liked the way we played."

Video: NYR@OTT, Gm2: Vigneault discusses Game 2 loss in 2OT

Why couldn't they finish it off? Why did the Senators get opportunities late in the game that they could capitalize on? Why did Pageau get open to score on two deflections to complete his hat trick late in the third period?

"I just think we sat back on our heels," Stepan said. "We talk about it all the time: With the lead, you've got to stay on your toes. And it felt like we sat back a little bit."

The exact same thing happened to the Rangers in Game 2 of the first round against the Montreal Canadiens. Stepan, in fact, said basically the same thing after that game.

New York had the lead going into the final minute, but Montreal was pressuring throughout the third period and eventually scored the tying goal in a 6-on-5 situation with 17.2 seconds remaining. The Canadiens won in overtime.

"We have to use our last series and understand that it's still a race to four," Stepan said. "You can lose two games in a row in a race to four. As long as you don't lose the fourth one, you're still in the series."

Another problem the Rangers have been dealing with reared its ugly head Saturday. They have obvious issues defending in 6-on-5 situations.

They allowed four 6-on-5 goals in the regular season, including two against the Philadelphia Flyers on April 2. They have allowed two in the playoffs, bringing it up to four this month.

Video: NYR@OTT, Gm2: Anderson stones Hayes in close

"Don't have the answer there," Stepan said. "It's a key part of the game, and we have to find a way to be better at it."

"If I knew why, I think we wouldn't sit here talking about it," Zibanejad said. "I can't really find words right now. It's just really disappointing."

But not disastrous.

Vigneault is right, the Rangers did a lot of things well in Game 2, much better than they did them in Game 1. Heck, they scored five goals. That's four more than they scored in Game 1.

For the first time in eight games this postseason, their goalie, Henrik Lundqvist, had an off night. They have to be confident that's not going to happen again in Game 3 at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports), but until then they have to deal with the sting of a brutal loss.

"It's going to be tough tonight and tomorrow, and then you move on," Lundqvist said. "There's no other way. Go home and [have] a good practice … in a couple days. Focus on Game 3. Get the win."

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