Rangers look to break through in Game 3
Through two games of the NHL playoffs' second round, the New York Rangers have shown they can play in a tight defensive game or jump out to a big lead.
But they have no wins for their efforts.
The Rangers hope home ice provides the advantage they need to claw back into their second-round series with the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 3 (7 pm ET, CBC, CBCSports.ca).
New York surrendered a three-goal lead in its 5-4 series-opening loss, but followed that with a close 2-0 defeat in Game 2. Despite falling into that deep hole, the Rangers see plenty of reason for optimism against a Penguins team they beat five out of eight times during the regular season —four of those wins were at Madison Square Garden.
"I don't think we have to think too much right now," Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist said. "We've been talking about the right stuff here, about coming home and playing. We know we can pull it off. We beat this team a couple of times during the year.
"The difference is not great between us, so let's put all our focus and energy to get one win. A lot of things can change and the momentum can change in a series."
Rangers head coach Tom Renney has seen a similar attitude resonating throughout his roster since they've returned to New York.
"The way our guys respond to these types of challenges, the way that they've been able to respond to having lost a couple of tough games during the season and come to work the next day speaks for itself," Renney said. "The demeanour and the deportment of our team this morning, under the circumstances, was real positive and real good in terms of, 'We're home, we're going to get these guys.'
"The gravity of where we are now, obviously, catches their attention, too."
Rangers need power-play punch to win
The situation should be familiar to the Rangers, who were down 0-2 heading home against the Buffalo Sabres in last year's playoffs. The Rangers rallied to tie that series on home ice, but everything fell apart from there as an agonizing overtime loss in Game 5 followed by a loss at home in Game 6 ended their season.
If the Rangers hope to avoid a similar fate against the Penguins, they'll need to improve on the power play.
New York has gone 1-9 with the man advantage in this series, including an 0-6 performance against a tough Pittsburgh penalty-killing unit in Game 2. Renney has said he will put defenceman Paul Mara back with the power-play unit in an effort to improve those numbers on Tuesday.
But the changes may not end there for the Rangers.
To complement the speed of centre Scott Gomez, veteran Brendan Shanahan has practised with the team's fourth line while Peter Prucha has moved up to the top unit.
Veteran defenceman Jason Strudwick was also in the practice rotation in favour of Christian Backman, but Renney hasn't tipped his hand on whether any of those moves will stick for Game 3.
"We'll see," Renney said after Monday's practice on Monday. "We thought we'd skate with that today and just have a look at it. Don't read too much into what you saw today. I'm still working on it."
Penguins wary of struggles in NYC
As the Rangers look for a way to breakthrough and climb back into the series, Pittsburgh continues to take care of business in the playoffs, compiling a 6-0 record.
But despite rising to the challenges of the post-season, they're well aware of their regular-season struggles at the Garden.
"Two of those games, we didn't play well," Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said. "It wasn't our team. "We had a tight one at the end of the season that went to overtime. We know it doesn't get any easier and we know they're a tough team at home.
"I think we know we did a good job [on home ice]. But there's still a long ways to go."
Crosby also knows he's likely to be a focal point on the road and will need to deflect what surely will be heavy boos in his direction after he was painted as a player who dives to draw penalties.
"It wouldn't be a surprise [to be booed]," Crosby said. "It's the playoffs and they're an emotional crowd. I'm sure they're going to want to stand by their team, the way our fans did for us. If that's the case, that's the way it is."
Depending on defence
Pittsburgh's offence is always a concern with Crosby and Evgeni Malkin up the middle, but its defence has served as a foundation.
Marc-Andre Fleury continues to look sharp in his second post-season, making 26 saves in Game 2 to earn his second shutout and reduce his goals against average (GAA) to 1.51.
Fleury has allowed just nine goals through six playoff games and has benefited from the Penguins' strong commitment to keeping opposing players out of his crease and shutting down their opponent's top lines.
Rangers captain Jaromir Jagr was one of those players who was blanketed by the Penguins in Game 2, but he remains convinced that the Rangers can climb back in the series with a simplified approach.
"If somebody tells you that you have to win four of five, it's strange. It doesn't look possible," Jagr said Monday. "But if someone tells you that you have to win the next one, then tell you that you have to win the next one and the next one, it's a lot easier. You don't think too forward."
"That's what Einstein said," he added, smiling and pointing to a biography of the noted physicist displayed in his locker.
Should the Rangers drop Game 3, it won't take a genius to assess their chances at a comeback. Only two teams in NHL history have rallied back from n 0-3 deficit to win their series.
With files from the Associated Press and the Canadian Press