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Senators aim for better start against Rangers in Game 4

Want more intensity, blocked shots

by Amalie Benjamin @AmalieBenjamin / NHL.com Staff Writer

NEW YORK -- Ottawa Senators coach Guy Boucher was blunt. He had an easy answer for what his Senators have to do differently in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Second Round on Thursday (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports), when they will try to prevent the New York Rangers from evening the best-of-7 series: "Start at the same time as them. That's it. Or else we have no chance."

Because it was, ultimately, the first period that did in the Senators on Tuesday, when they lost 4-1, giving New York its first win in the series. By the end of that first period, the Senators were down 2-0 and they didn't recover. 

It was, as defenseman Marc Methot put it, "a wake-up call."

 

[RELATED: Complete Senators vs. Rangers series coverage]

 

And that led to a lot of self-flagellation on Wednesday for the Senators, who decided to spend the day off the ice heading into Game 4.

"It doesn't matter what you do, it doesn't matter what systems you use," Boucher said. "If we're playing like that, there's no way we can win any game. Not even a regular-season game. That was below every single standard."

Boucher cited, in particular, the 11 blocks by the Senators on Tuesday, noting how far below Ottawa's standard that total was. The Senators blocked 19 shots in Game 2, a double-overtime win, and 16 shots in Game 1.

"They wanted it so bad," Boucher said of the Rangers. "You could see that there was total desperation. Every line that went on for their team had desperation and we did not." 

Video: NHL Tonight reacts to the Rangers' big home win

The worst that can happen for the Senators is that they return to Ottawa with the series tied 2-2, holding home-ice advantage. But that wasn't the way the Senators were talking Wednesday.

Instead, they were full of regrets and annoyances and dissatisfaction with their performance. They did not sound like a team that was still in control of the series and its destiny, which plays right into the message that Boucher has tried to deliver to his players and the media and the fan base and anyone else listening since the start of the second round: that his Senators are the underdog. Even ahead, they remain that, in his mind.

Of course, he did allow a bit of confidence to somehow sneak in.

"This team is so good on the other side that you can't even start thinking of being rivals with them if you don't have everybody on the same page," Boucher said. "It won't even be close if we're not what we were before, but you have to be fair, it's been a long time since we played a bad game. It's been a long, long time."

He's right, even though the Senators did not play their best in Game 2. They defeated the Boston Bruins in six games in the first round, losing two one-goal games. They have not struggled that much.

But now, at least in the words of the Senators and Boucher, this is a series with the Rangers. And to come out on top, the Senators need to revisit what brought them here, those blocked shots and those screened shots on Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist and getting back to the defensive system that got them through the regular season and into the postseason.

The biggest thing that the Senators found themselves missing Tuesday was a sense of desperation, as Boucher emphasized. They weren't exactly desperate, so it's understandable.

Video: Steve and EJ play a game of Ranger or Senator

But, for the Senators, it's not repeatable in Game 4, at least not if they want to head back to Ottawa with a chance to clinch the series in Game 5 on Saturday. They have to know that they haven't won anything yet, as forward Alexandre Burrows put it, and act like that.

"They really wanted that one," Burrows said. "We didn't match that intensity. That's on us. We feel that we let one go away. We've got to bounce back [Thursday] night."

There are, he said, a few tweaks the Senators need to make, not allowing the breakaways and the odd-man rushes that they did. But the Senators say that's not the biggest thing they need Thursday.

"The biggest thing for us is really the desperation part," Burrows said. "The battle level has to be a lot higher, the compete level, the paying-the-price level, the really wanting it more. I think yesterday you saw from them that they're an experienced team, they've been there before. They really took it another level, couragewise, and we didn't match that."

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