NEW YORK â€” Wreak havoc.
That was Dion Phaneuf’s solution for the Ottawa Senators’ sputtering offence heading into Game 5 of their playoff series with the New York Rangers.
“We do have to do a better job of creating some more around their net,” the defenceman said Friday before the team headed home to Ottawa for Saturday afternoon’s game.
After winning Games 1 and 2 at home, the Senators dropped the next two at Madison Square Garden, where they were outscored 8-2. With the exception of Jean-Gabriel Pageau, who has five of Ottawa’s 10 goals in the series, the Senators have struggled to beat star goalie Henrik Lundqvist.
Through the first four games, Lundqvist has a .921 save percentage and has stopped 117 of 127 shots. The veteran Swede has yielded just 21 goals on 333 shots through 10 playoff games this season.
“Their goalie has been playing very well,” Phaneuf said. “As he has all year. As he has for his whole career. The biggest thing with him â€” like other top goalies â€” you have to get traffic on him. We seem to have been getting chances but we haven’t been getting second chances. That’s when we’re effective around the net is when we get second chances or screened shots (or) tips.”
And it’s not just the forwards who need to step up, Phaneuf said.
“Us as (defencemen) have to do a better job of getting pucks through,” he said. “We’re getting too many pucks blocked. Give them credit, they block a lot of shots. They do a good job of blocking shots. But we have to find a way to get more pucks on him and get some traffic and some rebound goals. Because we’re capable of scoring and we have to do a better job of it.”
Senators coach Guy Boucher pointed to New York’s defensive structure as a reason for the Senators’ lack of offence in Game 4.
“I find they played well defensively,” Boucher said. “They had numbers back the whole night. They respected our speed. They took away our 2-on-1s and breakaways. And so we have to manufacture more offence out of no space. And that’s what the playoffs are: A no-space game.”
By comparison, New York has eight skaters who have scored in the series. Fourth-line centre Oscar Lindberg leads the Rangers with three goals, all coming in the last two games. He is followed by Brady Skjei, Chris Kreider and Michael Grabner, who have scored twice, while Ryan McDonagh, Derek Stepan, Mats Zuccarello and Nick Holden each have a goal.
“We have to have four lines that can play,” Alain Vigneault said after Game 4. “If you expect to win you’re going to need contributions from your whole team.”
The status of Senators captain Erik Karlsson is a concern after he sat out the third period of Thursday’s 4-1 loss. The all-star defenceman, who is playing with two hairline fractures in his left heel, fell awkwardly late in the second period.
Boucher suggested Karlsson would be back Saturday and confirmed that goaltender Craig Anderson would return to the net after he was yanked Thursday.
Like Phaneuf, Boucher wants to see more chaos around Lundqvist.
“It is tough to get those pucks to the net,” said Boucher. “Much tougher than, I think, any opponent we’ve had all year in terms of getting pucks to the net because they’re all very dedicated and very good technically at blocking shots. That’s definitely, I would say, our biggest obstacle.”
Denis P. Gorman, The Canadian Press