The Rangers have been here before, and now they will have dig in one more time.
After failing to close out Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals, the Blueshirts have their backs against the wall one more time and now it’s all or nothing.
“I don’t think we have much of a choice,” said center Derek Stepan. “It’s a race to four. It doesn’t matter how many games the other team wins. We have to beat them to four games. We have to go into their building and find a way to win.”
Actually, the Rangers may be better off. Even though Tampa Bay plays very well at home, the Blueshirts put up 10 goals in their building over two games as opposed to four over three at Madison Square Garden. It may be to their advantage, based on their play so far.
One thing is for certain, though, the Rangers will need to take advantage of their power play chances. After coming through with two power play goals in each of the last two games, the Rangers didn’t convert on the four chances they had in tonight’s matchup.
“We didn’t do a very good job of managing it in the sense of making plays and chipping pucks in,” Stepan said. “That’s my only issue with tonight.”
“Well, you know, our power play had been getting us some momentum, had been getting us some really good looks,” said Rangers coach Alain Vigneault. “Our execution was a little bit slow tonight on the power play. Because it was slow, it made it easier for them to defend. We didn’t get very many looks on it, and obviously that was a big part of tonight’s game.
Both sides are in agreement on this one.
“I thought that was the whole key to the game,” said Tampa coach Jon Cooper. “We take a few penalties there, and especially one of the big things that we challenged the guys was special teams. I mean, we
have to step up here, boys. To give up two power-play goals in, I think, three consecutive games, that’s not going to win you anything.”
The Rangers controlled the series. They played their game and spent a good amount of time in the Tampa zone for the first half of the match. But they couldn’t convert and that was the problem.
“We went after them,” Vigneault said. “I mean, look at the time we spent in their end in the first 30, 35 minutes. We were going. We had two “D”s up in the play, two “D”s up trying to cycle and create some open ice.”.
Ultimately, if the Blueshirts lose one of the next two games, they may kick themselves the most for this loss. They played their best, but couldn’t come through.
And credit needs to go to Ben Bishop, who stopped all 26 shots, after taking a puck to the groin in warmups.
“His close ones were probably a little nervous, but I didn’t hear anything, but I don’t know,” Cooper said. “I’ll go find out.”
Well, the Rangers now have to win another elimination game. They know what they have to do and now they just have to execute.
“Usually it happens as you get closer to the end of a series; it’s more thinking behind the plays, more than just go-go-go,” said goalie Henrik Lundqvist. “That’s what we saw in the first four games. I’m not really sure what to expect down in Tampa in the next one but we just have to prepare for the next one. It’s not like we haven’t been there before. We just have to go out there and leave everything out there and see how far it takes us. It’s going to be a challenge for us.”