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THN.com Playoff Blog: Sens kicked aside by Pens; and Rangers-Devils series Staalled

Ryan Kennedy
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The Sens had a game-tying goal called back in the second period of Game 4. (Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images) Author: The Hockey News

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THN.com Playoff Blog: Sens kicked aside by Pens; and Rangers-Devils series Staalled

Ryan Kennedy
By:

So...was it a “distinct kicking motion?”

One thing is for sure, Antoine Vermette's nullified game-tying goal in the second period was a distinct kick in the pants if you're a Senators fan.

Let's face it, Ottawa was not long for the playoffs this year. The Good Ship Senator has been taking on water since the all-star break and Wednesday night against the up and coming Pittsburgh Penguins, that vessel finally listed, then sunk to the bottom of the ocean with a 3-1 loss in Game 4.

If the play resulting in Vermette's disallowed goal had happened 20 years ago, maybe the Sens don't get swept. At high speed, it was a valiant offensive effort whilst getting tripped. In slow motion, it's probably still a goal. But in super-slow-motion on a-hi-def-flatscreen in the NHL war room, it ain't.

But the Sens can't point to that play as their downfall. Dropping the first three games of the series put them in that position. Not capitalizing on the chances they did have – such as when Pens goalie Marc-Andre Fleury muffed a clearing attempt with a minute to go in the second stanza, or Daniel Alfredsson not converting a juicy shot from the hashmarks in the dying moments of the game – is what sunk them.

And ultimately, some bad luck.

Alfie wasn't at full strength. Neither was Jason Spezza. Mike Fisher didn't even play. But when Jarkko Ruutu and Maxime Talbot are delivering the daggers to your season, you've got no reason to complain.

Down but not out
Over in Manhattan, the situation is muddier. Yes, the Rangers took a 3-1 series lead over New Jersey, but it's not like these teams were playing elite hockey. Goalies Martin Brodeur and Henrik Lundqvist – two of the league's top tenders – were average at best. Dumb penalties and turnovers killed the Hudson River adversaries and a 5-3 final was a fitting end.

But this series is far from over. The Rangers have not stepped on Jersey's neck yet and you cannot let the Devils think they have a chance, because a lot of those guys have played a lot of playoff games and deficits are no deterrent to their will.

Brandon Dubinsky has continued to show the rest of the hockey world what Rangers fans have been trying to tell us for months; it's the development of players such as him, Marc Staal (who scored the winner) and Nigel Dawes that makes the Blueshirts intriguing both now and in the future.

And do you think Scott Gomez knew what he was doing when he let John Madden win that faceoff clean, resulting in an own-goal empty-netter? Gomez is a former Devil, after all...

THN.com's Playoff Blogs, featuring analysis and opinion on the action from the night before, with insight on what happened and what it all means going forward, will appear daily throughout the NHL playoffs. Read more entries HERE.

Ryan Kennedy is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey's Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Wednesdays and his features, The Hot List and Year of the Ram, appears Tuesday and Thursday, respectively.

For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.

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THN.com Playoff Blog: Sens kicked aside by Pens; and Rangers-Devils series Staalled