OTTAWA, Ontario (AP) — Erik Karlsson was hoping for a good bounce. He got a great one.
Karlsson’s shot from an almost impossible angle beat Henrik Lundqvist with 4:11 left in the third period, sending the Ottawa Senators to a 2-1 victory over the New York Rangers in the opener of their second-round playoff series on Thursday night.
Karlsson’s first attempt was blocked by Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh, but the second — the shot leaving his tape from below the goal line — somehow found its way past the Swedish goaltender, who had been nearly unbeatable to that point.
“Those are always nice to get,” Karlsson said. “And I think that the amount of pucks that we put at the net we deserved one of those.”
It was the last of 43 shots at Lundqvist and the first goal of the playoffs for the Ottawa captain.
“There’s three guys in line with that puck and I pick it up, but it just hit me in the head and it’s in,” Lundqvist said.
It was Karlsson’s first goal and seventh point of the playoffs. The 26-year-old defenseman, who has been playing with a foot injury, also logged more than 28 minutes in the win.
Senators coach Guy Boucher was almost at a loss for words to describe a player who he believes is deserving of Hart Trophy consideration as league MVP this season.
“It’s been so consistent that I guess I got used to it,” Boucher said. “I don’t know if that’s good or bad, but I don’t think you should ever get used to that. I think our fans have to appreciate what we have here. It’s more than a star right now. That’s what I think is unbelievable. He’s a skilled player that became a star and now he’s a winner.”
Ryan McDonagh scored for New York, and Lundqvist finished with 41 saves.
Craig Anderson stopped 34 shots and Ryan Dzingel scored for Ottawa, which eliminated Boston in six games in the first round.
Game 2 is Saturday.
The Senators, playing in front of several empty seats, had a chance for a fast start, but went 0 for 3 on the power play during a scoreless first period.
The 35-year-old Lundqvist was terrific, especially early on. He made 21 saves in the first, including a pair of stops on Mark Stone during a flurry around the net on Ottawa’s first power play.
Lundqvist had a 1.70 goals-against average and a .947 save percentage in the first round against Montreal.
“He made some big stops for us and kept it tight and we always know he’s going to be there,” Rangers defenseman Marc Staal said. “You knew they were going to push in their building in Game 1 and we have to find a way to answer in Game 2. Playoffs come down to a bounce and one shot here or there and Thursday we were on the wrong side of it.”
Anderson wasn’t tested nearly as much at the other end, but was forced to hang tough when McDonagh walked past a row of Senators during a New York power play and made an attempt on goal that went wide.
The captain of the Rangers made the most of another power-play opportunity in the second, beating Anderson at 7:10 with pesky winger Chris Kreider camped out in front. New York went 1 for 15 with the man advantage in the first round.
Slumping through the first half of the middle period, the Sens grabbed momentum by punishing the Rangers with a series of heavy shifts down low in the offensive zone. The speedy Viktor Stalberg nearly scored when he slipped behind the New York defense at one point, but he was turned away.
Ottawa finally broke through with another power play — on the second of two minor penalties for rookie Brady Skjei.
Lundqvist brushed aside Kyle Turris’ shot from the left face-off circle, but the rebound came right to Dzingel and he converted the Sens’ 33rd shot.
It was more Lundqvist in the third. He denied Clarke MacArthur on a redirection from the slot, and then turned away Dzingel, who had gotten behind the New York defense. Lundqvist snatched his shot with the glove as the Canadian Tire Centre crowd murmured in frustration.
NOTES: Dozens of rows in the upper bowl were completely empty, and there was even a noticeable smattering of vacant seats in the lower bowl. The Senators had no comment when asked about the empty seats at the game and the attendance was not announced. The official game sheet said 16,744 fans were in the 19,153-seat arena.