Sens try to keep playoff hopes afloat in NYC

( – The New York Rangers will finish out the regular season
knowing they will have home-ice advantage throughout the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The Ottawa Senators have two games left to try and join the Rangers in the

The Sens aim to secure a critical road victory on Thursday night against the
Presidents’ Trophy-winning Rangers.

Ottawa is 4-0-1 over its past five games, following up a shootout loss to
Toronto on Sunday with Tuesday’s huge 4-3 rally to top the Pittsburgh Penguins
in overtime. The Sens trailed 3-0 after the first period, but Mark Stone’s
second goal of the game 2:43 into the extra frame secured the win.

Jean-Gabriel Pageau got the rally started with a short-handed goal that hit
off a Penguins defenseman and Stone’s first goal of the game came 34 seconds
into the third period. Fellow rookie Mike Hoffman then scored with 1:48 left
in the third period and Stone put home the winner off a feed from defenseman
Erik Karlsson.

Andrew Hammond made 25 saves for the Senators, who played beyond regulation
for the fifth straight game and tied Boston with 95 points for the second wild
card spot in the Eastern Conference.

“Just play our hearts out for the remainder of the games and see where we end
up,” Karlsson said.

The Sens remained even with the Bruins in the standings after Boston was shut
out by the Washington Capitals on Wednesday night. Both teams have two games
left to play, though the Bruins hold the current tiebreaker with two more non-
shootout wins and visit the Florida Panthers tonight.

Ottawa ends its regular season on Saturday at the Philadelphia Flyers and also
is a point back of the idle Pittsburgh Penguins for the first wild card spot
and two behind the Detroit Red Wings for third place in the Atlantic Division.

Hoffman, Stone and Hammond have all been key to the Senators’ playoff push.
Hoffman leads all NHL rookies with 27 goals and Stone is tied for second among
first-year players with 61 points.

Hammond, meanwhile, has gone 18-1-2 as a starter in his NHL career, though
that lone regulation loss came to the Rangers on March 26. The 27-year-old was
lifted after 37 minutes for allowing five goals on 22 shots faced.

The Rangers are looking to sweep their three-game season series with the
Senators and have taken four of the past five encounters overall. However,
they snapped a seven-game series home losing streak with an overtime victory
on Jan. 20.

New York wrapped up its first Presidents’ Trophy since its 1993-94 Stanley
Cup-winning season with a 4-2 victory over the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday
night. Kevin Hayes had a goal and two assists, while Carl Hagelin added a goal
and a helper to the Blueshirts’ fifth straight win.

The victory was also the 52nd of the season for New York, matching a franchise
single-season record.

“It’s a great accomplishment,” said Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh, who scored
a goal. “Like any team, we had to handle adversity, injuries and ups and
downs. To say we won the regular season is a huge confidence boost and a huge
reassurance what this team is capable of doing.”

Cam Talbot, who helped keep New York in the playoff mix when Henrik Lundqvist
missed nearly two months with a neck injury, finished with 19 saves. Lundqvist
is expected to start New York’s final two games, including Saturday’s regular-
season finale in Washington.

Lundqvist is 13-15-3 versus the Senators with a 2.16 goals against average and
.929 save percentage.

New York forward Mats Zuccarello sat out Tuesday’s contest due to general