The Ottawa Senators refused to go down without a fight Saturday night at Madison Square Garden.
Now, the New York Rangers are in for a battle.
The Senators sent this series back to Ottawa tied 1-1 when Chris Neil scored the OT winner with a backhander that beat Henrik Lundqvist to give the club a 3-2 victory
in what turned out to be an ugly, physical battle.
"It was simple. That's what wins hockey games. We were able to do that," said Neil. "We just stuck with it. We got a lucky bounce on the first goal, but we kept with it. It was one of those games everyone stepped up.
"Being able to split here in this fun atmosphere, I can't wait to see what it's going to be like at home."
You knew this was going to be a hard-fought battle as soon as Senators head coach Paul MacLean filled out his lineup sheet. Rugged defenceman Matt Carkner was inserted in favour of Matt Gilroy and Zenon Konopka dressed for Kaspars Daugavins.
Only 2:15 into the game, Carkner caught Brian Boyle along the glass and started throwing punches. The Senators wanted to make Boyle pay for hitting Erik Karlsson in the head five times in Game 1.
The result: Carkner was thrown out along with Brandon Dubinsky when he tried to defend Boyle. Carkner will likely have a meeting with Brendan Shanahan once the league reviews the tape.
"It's something where we have to take care of our own," said Konopka.
The Senators will have to soldier on without captain Daniel Alfredsson. He was forced to leave the game midway through the second period when he took a hit to the head from New York forward Carl Hagelin.
While Hagelin was given a five-minute major for elbowing on the play, he could face supplementary discipline. It was Alfredsson who missed five games earlier this year with a concussion he suffered after getting hit by Wojtek Wolski.Tough challenge
This definitely makes the challenge tougher for Ottawa.
"It's a tough moment when you lose one of your best players," said Anderson. "He's the heart and soul of our team. He brings so much for us.
"We rallied around the incident. We rallied around being together as a group. We buckled down, we put the work boots on and we found a way to get one for him."
Rangers coach John Tortorella refused to even discuss all the incidents in his post-game press conference.
"I'm not talking about the refs or the calls or anything like that," said Tortorella, who added that if Hagelin gets suspended for hitting Alfredsson then Chris Phillips should also be out for hitting Ryan Callahan in the first.
The Rangers put up a brave face as the series moves to Ottawa for Game 3 Monday.
"Every team that makes the playoffs now definitely can win," said Brad Richards. "This isn't something we weren't prepared for. We wanted to win tonight, we wanted to take 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."
The Senators won't get ahead of themselves.
"We're just taking it one game at a time and playing consistent, said Ottawa centre Jason Spezza. "It's a team that we respect and try to play similar to, it's going to be a battle. Every games going to be like this."
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