The New York Rangers were 86 seconds from their third straight win over the Ottawa Senators and a 3-2 lead in their Eastern Conference semifinal.
Now they’re heading home on the brink of elimination.
After former Ranger Derick Brassard tied the game 4-4 at 18:34 of the third period, Kyle Turris won it for Ottawa at 6:28 of the first overtime period on Saturday.
It was the second time in the series the Senators have scored late with their goaltender on the bench for an extra skater. Brassard was that extra skater off the bench on Saturday.
“There is definitely an area as far as structure wise that I thought we had addressed,” said Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault. “Maybe the guys didn’t know the goaltender was coming, but there was less than two minutes (to play) and (Ottawa) was down by a goal so they should expect it but maybe the guys got caught not knowing the goalie was out.”
The teams will now head back to Manhattan for Game 6 of the best-of-seven on Tuesday with the Senators ahead 3-2.
The home team has won all five games. That’s some good news for the Rangers as they completely dominated Games 3 and 4 at Madison Square Garden winning both 4-1.
“It’s the only approach we can have right now,” Vigneault said referring to the home dominance in the series.
“We’re down and we can’t lose another game so we’re going to go back to New York, regroup, we’re going to have 48 hours and get ready for the next game.”
The Rangers have also won four straight on home ice dating back the their opening round series with the Montreal Canadiens, including the series clinching Game 6.
If they are going to force a Game 7 back in Ottawa next Thursday they will have to channel some of the energy they had in their previous two home games.
Not that they didn’t have that energy to start the game Saturday as they jumped out to a 2-0 lead five minutes in on just four shots.
Jesper Fast and Nick Holden scored at 4:07 and 5:13 respectively before Mark Stone got the Senators on the board at 6:03.
Goals from Mike Hoffman and Tom Pyatt 23 seconds apart midway through the second gave the Senators their first lead to play with since late in Game 1 of the series.
Michael Grabner tied the game for the Rangers late in the second period and Jimmy Vesey scored his first ever playoff goal at 12:48 of the third to give the Rangers a 4-3 lead.
“We knew they were going to come out with a lot of desperation and they did. We got a couple of quick goals but they kept pressing and they had some good momentum in the second to grab the lead,” Rangers defenceman Dan Girardi explained.
“I thought we showed some good resilience and getting the go-ahead goal with about seven minutes left. It’s too bad we couldn’t hold it. Giving up the tying goal again with a minute left is tough to swallow. We have a couple days off now and then back to work.”
Having won two games in overtime the Senators have only played with the lead for 13 minutes and 10 seconds through the first five games.
That, like the Game 5 result, is something the Rangers will just have to let go.
“This game, we have to forget right now and focus on the next one. We have to win one at home and steal one here. It’s as easy as that. It’s nothing magical. We just have to play our game. Every time you lose a game you just have to play better next game and that’s our mindset,” Rangers forward Mats Zuccarello said.
“It wasn’t good enough today. We should have won this game. It’s a tough game for sure but it’s forgotten now and we have to focus on the next one. We believe we can win the next game and force a Game 7. That’s our mindset. We play well at home and we have to keep playing like that.”
Having lost the first two games of the series the Rangers knew they had to win four of the next five games to advance. Now there is no room for error.