Rangers Vs. Senators: Top Seed New York Pushed To The Brink

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 21: Craig Anderson #41 of the Ottawa Senators looks on against the New York Rangers in Game Five of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Madison Square Garden on April 21, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

This series has been as close as it gets, with just nine non-empty-net goals from each side. With his 41-save showing in Game 5, Craig Anderson has matched Henrik Lundqvist in the goaltenders duel.

Craig Anderson was not supposed to be the most important goalie in this series. Craig Anderson was not supposed to be the guy winning 2-0 games. Craig Anderson is now one win away from eliminating the heavily favored, No. 1 seed New York Rangers from the playoffs.

Anderson's 41-save performance Saturday night at Madison Square Garden was the difference in a 2-0 win that puts the Ottawa Senators up 3-2 in the series and heading back home with the chance to clinch.

Henrik Lundqvist was supposed to be the key goaltender in this first-round series, backstopping the Rangers to low-scoring wins as he has all season and pretty much his whole career. And as is his norm, he's been quite good. But the Rangers' love of low-scoring games means things can turn on a knife's edge -- or an equally fantastic goalie performance at the other end -- with the Rangers' sometimes unproductive offense powerless to create breathing room.

Only four teams have scored 1.80 goals per game or less in these playoffs. Two of them (Detroit Red Wings, San Jose Sharks) are already eliminated, one of them (Vancouver Canucks) is trying to recover from a 3-0 series deficit, and the other is the Rangers.

Those are four good teams, too. But that's one of the many cruel realities of the playoffs: Even in a best-of-seven series, if your offense slumps and the other goalie steals a game or two, that can be enough to send a good team packing.

That's the danger the playoff favorite Rangers face. In reality, this series has been as close as it gets: Through five games, just nine goals from each team, with a tenth for Ottawa coming via Jason Spezza's empty net goal Saturday night.

As with any playoff series, there are other factors at play -- and Chris Neil's concussing high hit on Brian Boyle may be the latest factor.

But the stage is set for one or two more nail-biting finishes and goaltenders stealing the show. For the clinching win, will that goalie be Anderson or Lundqvist?

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