By VIN A. CHERWOO, AP Sports Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — Erik Karlsson and the Ottawa Senators showed off their toughness in the third period. The New York Rangers pushed and pushed, but the resilient Senators held on — all the way to their first Eastern Conference final in 10 years.
Karlsson had a goal and an assist, Craig Anderson made 37 saves and the Senators eliminated the Rangers with a 4-2 victory in Game 6 of their second-round series Tuesday night.
“We knew they were going to come back with a real good push,” Senators forward Kyle Turris said. “We knew it was going to be probably the hardest period of the playoffs for us so far. It was and we just tried to weather the storm.”
Trailing 3-1 after two periods, New York pulled within one on Chris Kreider’s goal 53 seconds into the third. The Rangers outshot the Senators 15-5 in the final period, but couldn’t find the equalizer.
Jean-Gabriel Pageau clinched the series for Ottawa with an empty-netter with 6.2 seconds left for his seventh goal of the postseason.
“They had chances and a lot of them,” forward Mark Stone said. “That was the time when we needed our goaltender to be big.”
Stone and Mike Hoffman scored in the first period for Ottawa, and Clarke MacArthur finished with two assists.
The Senators, headed to the conference finals for the first time since their run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2007, will face Pittsburgh or Washington in the next round. Their series is headed to Game 7 on Wednesday night.
Mika Zibanejad also scored for New York, and Henrik Lundqvist had 22 saves.
“We had a lot of chances that I think we let slip through our fingers,” Rangers center Derek Stepan said, “but it’s a good team over there. Don’t sell them short. They battled real hard, they played real strong games, and they had that magic. Sometimes you’ve got to have a little bit of that.”
Kreider had a chance to tie it a little over 5 minutes into the third, but didn’t get a clean shot on a pass from Zibanejad. His attempt from in front trickled off his stick and was stopped by Anderson.
Lundqvist made some stellar saves late in the third, including a stop on Derick Brassard from the right side with 5 minutes left.
“Right now all you feel is disappointment and it’s a numb feeling,” Lundqvist said. “It’s not a great feeling. You realize how much work and how many hours you put into this to put yourself in this spot to get this chance.”
Zibanejad got the Rangers on the scoreboard with about 6 1/2 minutes left in the second. He took a pass from Mats Zuccarello, skated in and beat Anderson on the glove side into the top right corner.
Karlsson then beat Lundqvist on the blocker side with 4:07 remaining to restore the Senators’ two-goal lead.
The Rangers outshot the Senators 13-10 in the first, but trailed 2-0 after 20 minutes. New York had three power plays and more scoring chances, but Ottawa was aggressive on defense while blocking nine shots in the opening period, and whatever got past the defense was stopped by Anderson.
“It elevates your game knowing that these guys are battling and they are paying the price,” Anderson said of his teammates blocking shots. “Everyone works a little harder for each other when guys do that type of play.”
Hoffman put Ottawa in front 4:27 into the game. He got the puck behind the net and sent a pass out to MacArthur. He then went in front of the net and deflected a shot from Karlsson past Lundqvist for his fourth of the playoffs.
It came on the Senators’ second shot on goal of the game and marked the first time Ottawa scored first in the series.
Stone scored with 5:16 left in the first when he got a pass from MacArthur on the left side as he crossed the blue line, skated up and fired a shot past Lundqvist for his fourth of postseason. Rangers coach Alain Vigneault challenged the play for offside, but the goal stood after a review.
NOTES: The NHL announced the Rangers will face the Buffalo Sabres in the Winter Classic at Citi Field, home of baseball’s New York Mets. Commissioner Gary Bettman made the announcement on television during the first intermission. … The Senators were 0 for 2 on the power play, finishing the series 1 for 18 and falling to 6 for 41 in the postseason. … The Rangers were 0 for 4 with the man advantage. They finished 2 for 24 in the series and 3 for 39 in the playoffs.
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