It didn’t matter. The 24-year-old put together a "legendary game" at Canadian Tire Centre by scoring a career-high four goals, including the 6-5 double overtime winner. Victory gave Ottawa a 2-0 series lead in the playoffs for only the second time in team history and first since the 2007 Eastern Conference final against Buffalo.
"I think I closed my eyes when I shot and thankfully it went in," Pageau, an Ottawa native, said of the winner. "I was on a cloud and it’s a moment I’ll never forget."
Not only did Pageau end Game 2, he made sure it got to overtime in the first place by scoring twice in the final three-plus minutes of regulation to knot the score at five. Both goals saw him tip shots past Henrik Lundqvist — the first from Zack Smith with just over three minutes left, the second from Kyle Turris with 62 seconds on the clock.
He then came streaking in with rookie defenceman Ben Harpur less than three minutes in the second OT and beat Lundqvist glove-side for the winner.
"I thought his quota was full," captain Erik Karlsson said when asked if Pageau was his pick for the double OT winner.
Unlike Game 1, which saw Ottawa dominate for long stretches before prevailing late on a goal from Karlsson, Saturday’s was a sloppy affair from the home side.
Power-play troubles, in particular, nearly spelled their doom. The Rangers actually finished with more short-handed goals (two) than the Senators had shots (zero) with the man advantage — Ottawa getting nothing at Lundqvist with three consecutive power plays in the first 10 minutes.
Often, it was simple sloppiness with the puck, passes gone completely askew.
The Sens never died though despite the Rangers continually turning one-goal leads into two. Mark Stone cut the deficit to 4-3 in the opening minutes of the third, but less than four minutes later, Brady Skjei scored the second of his two goals to increase the margin once more.
"We couldn’t find our game the way that we wanted to find it," Sens defenceman Dion Phaneuf said. "But we came in between periods and said, ‘Let’s keep going. Let’s keep pushing."’
Seeing that it was an "ugly day", head coach Guy Boucher said "ugly goals" were required and the two by Pageau late in regulation fit that description. Both saw the pesky former fourth-round pick poking his nose around the New York crease.
"That last deflection I don’t even know how he did that," Lundqvist said. "The way he angled the stick he didn’t even know he hit the net I think."
Pageau, who played a career high of almost 29 minutes, said he was actually quite tired just before his double OT winner rolled around. It’s why he was able to get the extra break out of the defensive zone for the odd-man rush which ended the game.
Though he scored a playoff hat trick against Montreal in 2013 and chips in with modest offence — 12 goals and 33 points in the regular season after 19 and 43 one year earlier — the five-foot-10, 180-pound Pageau has ultimately built his career to this point by agitating opposing top lines.
"I knew from playing against him he was a pain in the butt," said Phaneuf, who joined the Sens last season from Toronto. "He’s not the biggest guy, but I’m telling you, he competes."
Added Phaneuf: "It’s just great to see him get rewarded: four-goal game, overtime winner. It’s just a legendary game."
Pageau has registered nine goals now in 24 playoff games with seven coming in two outings, including the first ever four-goal playoff game for a Senator.
Boucher described the effort as "absolutely sick".
"When you ask players who they want to play with the No. 1 name that always comes is Pageau," Boucher said of Pageau, who wears the No. 44 and won 54.8 per cent of his faceoffs during the regular season. "It doesn’t matter if it’s an offensive player, defensive player, that’s always a name that comes up.
"Today is just one more of these nights where you know why everybody wants to play with this guy."
It wasn’t all good news for the Senators with Clarke MacArthur exiting midway through because of a mysterious upper body ailment. It wasn’t clear if the issue was related to persistent concussion problems, but the 32-year-old did take a big hit from Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh late in the first period.
Boucher said MacArthur "aggravated" something from Game 1, but was already feeling better afterward.
Karlsson, who played through two hairline fractures in his left foot in the first round, also briefly left the game and looked to be in discomfort throughout. He still logged more than 37 minutes, notched an assist and fired eight attempts on goal.
Game 3 is Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden in New York City.