Rangers 3, Senators 2

Associated Press | Wednesday, 08.06.2014 / 4:47 AM

OTTAWA — Game 7 at the Garden.

It's not necessarily what the top-seeded Rangers were hoping for when their first-round Eastern Conference series against Ottawa started, but they're thrilled about it now.

Brad Richards scored the go-ahead goal and Derek Stepan had a goal and two assists as New York staved off elimination with a 3-2 victory over the Senators on Monday night.

"We showed some desperation tonight," Rangers defenceman Marc Staal said.

The series heads back to New York for Game 7 on Thursday night. It's the first Game 7 in any sport at Madison Square Garden in 17 years.

Not even the return of captain Daniel Alfredsson, who missed three games with a concussion, in front of the fired-up home crowd at Scotiabank Place could help the eighth-seeded Senators complete the upset.

"I didn't really think that we played particularly well or worked particularly hard," Ottawa coach Paul MacLean said.

Carl Hagelin returned to the Rangers lineup after sitting out a three-game suspension for his elbow on Alfredsson

The Rangers broke through in the second with three goals after going six straight periods without scoring.

Chris Neil gave Ottawa a 1-0 lead in the first with a power-play goal and Jason Spezza cut it to 3-2 with 39 seconds left to play in the third. That goal was reviewed after some question about whether Neil kicked it in.

"It's unbelievable," said Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, who finished with 25 saves. "It still upsets me because we had this game, then they get a chance. Someone wants them back in the game, obviously, because there's no other explanation."

In the first, Neil was planted at the edge of Lundqvist's crease along with teammate Zack Smith when Ottawa's power play put it ahead 1-0 at 7:05. Sergei Gonchar's point shot deflected in off Neil's skate as he tried to jump out of the way.

That got the frenzied towel-waving crowd into a lather that only increased when Neil answered Brandon Prust's challenge for a fight eight minutes later.

The momentum seemed to be completely in Ottawa's favour when the first intermission hit, especially with goalie Craig Anderson locked into a lengthy shutout streak and looking sharp once again.

But the Senators lost their focus in the second period and referees Steve Kozari and Tim Peel gave the Rangers four power plays.

"The power play helped, we scored a couple of power-play goals," said Rangers coach John Tortorella.

Stepan tied the game 1-1 during the first one at 8:55, taking two whacks at a sweet pass from Richards to beat Anderson. That ended the Rangers' scoring drought at 145 minutes, 27 seconds.

A call that Ottawa fans will question helped put New York ahead for good.

"You look at the scoresheet and special teams was a huge part of tonight," Ottawa's Chris Phillips said. "It's tough when you're in the box, but on the other side we've got to take advantage when we've got the extra man and we've got to do a better job of that in Game 7."

New York received a lengthy 5-on-3 after Nick Foligno was sent off for goaltender interference — replays showed two Rangers players guiding him into Lundqvist — and Richards took advantage of the extra space by skating off the wall and beating Anderson high at 17:08.

"I'm not sure about (Foligno's) call, it's a bit of a tough call to put a team down 5-on-3 in a real tight series," Spezza said. "We haven't seen one of those yet, either way and they get a lot of momentum from that and we give them the late goal."

That was soon followed by a back-breaking goal from Kreider, the first of his NHL career. He sneaked a shot through Anderson with 40.3 seconds to play in the period to make it 3-1.

Ottawa successfully staged a number of dramatic comebacks during the regular season — they also erased a two-goal deficit while winning Game 4 — and had plenty of opportunities to mount another one here. But Lundqvist held the Senators at bay on two power plays, denying Kyle Turris point blank and having a Phillips shot ring off the post.

The Sens managed to squeeze one puck over the goal-line in the final minute, with Spezza getting credit at 19:21 after a long video review.

The last Game 7 at the Garden was in the NBA. The Knicks lost 97-95 to Reggie Miller and the Indiana Pacers in the 1995 Eastern Conference semifinals. The last time the Rangers hosted a Game 7 was 1994, when they beat Vancouver to win their first Stanley Cup in 54 years.

After six games, there has been very little to choose between teams that were separated by 10 wins and 17 points through the regular season. But the Senators have one more chance to pull off the upset, needing only one more victory at Madison Square Garden, where they are a combined 4-1 this year.

"When you win in a building, it definitely gives you a little bit of confidence," Spezza said. "But we know it's going to be a battle — both teams are playing for their lives and nobody wants to go home. Seventh games are special. It's going to be intense."

NOTES: Turris briefly left the game in the first period after a blocking a shot, but returned ... Swedish forward Jakob Silfverberg made his NHL debut for the Senators ... New York's Brian Boyle didn't make the trip after suffering a concussion on a hit from Neil in Game 5 ... Two of Alfredsson's sons, Loui and Hugo, were on the ice with Sens flags when the team came out at the start of the game ... Former Senators Igor Kravchuk and Shaun Van Allen were among the announced crowd of 20,500.

Scoring Summary
1st Period
07:05OTT PPG - Chris Neil (2) ASST: Sergei Gonchar (2), Nick Foligno (3) 1 - 0 OTT
2nd Period
08:55NYR PPG - Derek Stepan (1) ASST: Brad Richards (3), Anton Stralman (2) 1 - 1 Tie
17:08NYR PPG - Brad Richards (2) ASST: Michael Del Zotto (2), Derek Stepan (1) 2 - 1 NYR
19:19NYR Chris Kreider (1) ASST: Derek Stepan (2), Marc Staal (1) 3 - 1 NYR
3rd Period
19:21OTT Jason Spezza (3) ASST: Colin Greening (1) 3 - 2 NYR
Penalty Summary
1st Period
05:47NYR Mike Rupp  Roughing against  Zenon Konopka
10:02OTT Matt Carkner  Delaying Game-Puck over glass
15:10OTT Chris Neil  Fighting (maj) against  Brandon Prust
15:10NYR Brandon Prust  Fighting (maj) against  Chris Neil
18:06OTT Zack Smith  Roughing against  Ryan Callahan
2nd Period
06:22NYR Brandon Prust  Cross checking against  Erik Condra
07:57OTT Milan Michalek  Holding against  Marc Staal
09:18OTT Jakob Silfverberg  Boarding against  Ryan McDonagh
14:28NYR Chris Kreider  Interference on goalkeeper against  Craig Anderson
15:42OTT Filip Kuba  Hooking against  Ruslan Fedotenko
15:58OTT Nick Foligno  Interference on goalkeeper against  Henrik Lundqvist
3rd Period
01:44NYR Brandon Prust  Tripping against  Kyle Turris
04:11OTT Kyle Turris  Slashing against  Carl Hagelin
08:20NYR Marian Gaborik  Hooking against  Chris Phillips
shots by period
Team Stats
Power Plays2/71/5
Faceoff Wins2737
Blocked Shots1715
Penalty Minutes1519
4M. Del ZottoD0112018:44
5D. GirardiD00-11028:42
8B. PrustL0002913:11
10M. GaborikR0002220:14
17B. DubinskyC0000015:50
18M. StaalD0110020:53
19B. RichardsC1103021:47
20C. KreiderL1002210:46
21D. StepanC1202019:00
24R. CallahanR0001024:28
26R. FedotenkoL0000015:39
27R. McDonaghD00-13028:26
32A. StralmanD0101013:45
34J. MitchellC000009:49
41S. BickelD000001:59
42A. AnisimovC000108:27
62C. HagelinL0002014:53
71M. RuppL000024:09
30H. Lundqvist2527.92660:00
2J. CowenD0001017:07
4C. PhillipsD00-10022:02
7K. TurrisC0002213:43
9M. MichalekL0011220:50
11D. AlfredssonR0003018:21
14C. GreeningC0101010:47
15Z. SmithC00-12211:45
17F. KubaD0012223:59
19J. SpezzaC1004019:30
22E. CondraR0000010:17
25C. NeilR1011514:19
28Z. KonopkaC0001015:02
33J. SilfverbergR000129:02
39M. CarknerD000026:30
42J. O'BrienC0000011:41
55S. GoncharD0101025:31
65E. KarlssonD0003025:02
71N. FolignoL0104214:03
41C. Anderson1922.86458:05