OTTAWA, Ontario - Chris Kreider's first goal as an NHL player turned out to be a life saver.
His team's life, that is.
Kreider's shot in the last minute of the second period that barely snuck past Senators goalie Craig Anderson wound up the winner as the New York Rangers staved off elimination with a 3-2 victory over Ottawa at Scotiabank Place Monday.
The seventh and deciding game of the series is set for Madison Square Garden Thursday night.
"(Derek) Stepan made an unbelievable pass and I actually thought I kind of fumbled it, then held it a little too long," said Kreider, a 2009 first-round pick who starred for Boston College this season and didn't join the Rangers until the playoffs. "It went off Anderson and in, but he got to the post pretty quick. I probably should get that off a little faster."
Fast describes how the Rangers dug themselves out of a hole and put themselves back in the driver's seat in this first-round playoff series with the Senators, a team that finished seven spots below the Rangers in the Eastern Conference standings.
Ottawa held a 1-0 lead on Chris Neil's second of the playoffs until running into penalty trouble eight minutes into the second period.
Stepan stopped Anderson's shutout string at 145:27 with a power play goal, then Brad Richards broke the deadlock with New York enjoying a 5-on-3 advantage at 17:08 of the second period.
Richards goal was not without controversy, as Ottawa's Nick Foligno was one of the two Senators in the box serving a goalie interference call even though the videoboard replay showed he had been pushed into Henrik Lundqvist by Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi.
"I was really disappointed about that call," said Foligno. "I'm getting pushed. How else do you want me to stop? I can't even stop. I'm trying to actually avoid him if you watch the replay."
Kreider's goal came just 2:11 later, with the sides at even strength. It clearly rattled the Senators.
Center Jason Spezza scored from a goal mouth scramble with 39 seconds left, but there would be no further push from Ottawa.
In fact, coach Paul MacLean was disappointed with his team's lack of effort for most of the night.
MacLean gave Spezza, the NHL's fourth-leading scorer during the regular season, just three shifts in the third.
Asked why, MacLean simply said: "He's not injured."
Ottawa captain Daniel Alfredsson, who was making his return to the series after missing three games with a concussion, smashed his stick in anger on the bench when MacLean didn't use his first unit on a power play in the third.
The Senators power play has been so bad, it's tough to blame him.
"I didn't think we played very well or consistently until the last six minutes of the game," said MacLean. "I'd like to see us play harder."
Lundqvist wound up making 25 saves, while Anderson was able to stop just 19 shots.
"We knew this would be a hard-fought battle," said Anderson. "We're in this until the end. It's going to come down to one game."
The Rangers are looking forward it.
"I think we'll clear our heads, get a day off (Tuesday)," said winger Brandon Prust, a pain in the Senators side all night. "Couple of days now and the fun begins."
NOTES: With two Swedish TV stations following him, highly touted Senators prospect Jakob Silfverberg made his NHL debut. The MVP of both the Elite League regular season and its playoffs, the 21-year-old winger played his shifts on the team's first line, with Jason Spezza and Milan Michalek. He wound up working just 9:02, registering one shot on goal and taking a boarding penalty ... The Senators are 4-1 in games at Madison Square Garden this season ... Rangers center Brian Boyle, who scored in each of the first three games of the series, missed this one with a concussion he suffered when hit by Chris Neil in Game 5. Taking Boyle's place in the lineup was Carl Hagelin, who was returning from a three-game suspension he received for elbowing Daniel Alfredsson in the head in Game 2. Neil was upset with what he said was an elbow to the head from Michael Del Zotto in the third period. "I'm sure I will catch him with his head down," said Neil.