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Rangers Getting Different Test Than They Expected

The Rangers lost a game and a fight to the Senators on Saturday night

By Josh Alper
|  Monday, Apr 16, 2012  |  Updated 1:41 PM EDT
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Rangers Getting Different Test Than They Expected

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Big hits took their toll on the Rangers in Game Two.

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The Senators didn't just get mad on Saturday night, they got even.

Ottawa turned the first round series with the Rangers on its head after a 4-2 loss in Game One by playing a far more physical, aggressive and nasty game than anyone expected to see from them. The script of the series was supposed to be that the Rangers would carry things on that front while the Senators tried to use the athleticism of Erik Karlsson and Jason Spezza to upset the Rangers.

They went a different way on Saturday, though, and wound up with a 3-2 overtime win for their troubles. The Senators were the ones who started the game with enforcers on the ice and they were the ones who touched off a melee a short time later when Matt Carkner jumped Brian Boyle and began whaling away at his head.

Brandon Dubinsky jumped in and got thrown out along with Carkner, a strange decision seeing as how the referees called Dubinsky the third man into a fight that didn't result in a fighting major for Boyle. Boyle then fought with Chris Neil a bit later and generally spent the evening as a marked man thanks to a hit on Karlsson in Game One.

He held up quite well, scoring the goal that put the Rangers up 2-1 in the third, and should be the example for what the rest of the Rangers have to do to put themselves back on top of this series. He played through the Senators' rough stuff, didn't let it throw him off his game and continued to ride the hot streak that bubbled up near the end of the season.

It will take more than that, though. The Rangers need to find a way to dictate the pace of the game, something that is admittedly difficult if the Senators come out to play in a style that mirrors the one the Rangers used to get to the top of the Eastern Conference.

The best way to do that will be to steer clear of as much extracurricular nonsense as possible and playing smart and tough between the whistles. Stand up when challenged, to be sure, but don't go out of your way to make trouble because that's only going to open a door to what the Senators want to do on their home ice.

Don't do what Carl Hagelin did, in other words. The rookie is going to be out for the next three games after concussing Daniel Alfredsson with an elbow, a penalty that drew a five-minute Ottawa power play on Saturday.

Hagelin's punishment is ridiculous in a league that suspended Carkner one game for touching off a brawl and didn't suspend Nashville's Shea Weber at all for slamming the head of Detroit's Henrik Zetterberg into the boards twice as if it were the turnbuckle of a WWE ring. Hagelin deserved a suspension for Game Three, it was a cheap hit to the head through and through, but he got over-punished and the Rangers will miss him.

They'll miss him less if Dubinsky returns with some semblance of his game intact and if Derek Stepan can rebound from a terrible Game Two. They'll miss him not at all if they can take advantage of the Senators' overzealous hitting and capitalize on power play chances after going just 1-for-8 on Saturday.

It might not be the fight that the Rangers were expecting, but it is the fight they got. Now their only mission is to figure out a way to win it so that they can move on to the next one.

Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and he is also a contributor to Pro Football Talk.

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