Rangers must prove they can win as front-runners vs. Lightning
TAMPA, Fla. — To a person, the Rangers mentioned they knew the “push’’ was coming.
Yet when that predictable “push’’ got here from the Lightning — in all-out Mach 10 desperation mode Sunday down 2-0 within the sequence and 2-0 in Game 3 at residence — the Rangers have been unable to muster sufficient power to match that push.
So, right here we’re: An actual sequence has damaged out within the Eastern Conference Final, Rangers main 2-1 coming into Tuesday’s Game 4 at Amalie Arena as an alternative of 3-0 with an opportunity to shut this factor out earlier than going again residence.
One of two outcomes would be the by-product of Tuesday evening’s Game 4: The Rangers will both be going again to the Garden with a commanding 3-1 lead or the Lightning, the two-time defending Stanley Cup champs with an iron chin, could have tied the sequence at 2-2 having pickpocketed the momentum the Rangers had a stranglehold on when they flew to Florida.
“They’re not going to provide you something for nothing,’’ Rangers coach Gerard Gallant mentioned after Monday’s non-compulsory afternoon skate at Amalie. “They’ve received 10 sequence in a row. We’re going to should take it from them. They’re not going to provide us nothing.’’
Not for nothing, however right here’s what the Rangers must work out earlier than they take the ice towards the rejuvenated Lightning Tuesday: How to play with the desperation and urgency they summoned when they have been down 3-1 to the Penguins of their first sequence and when they have been down 2-0 and 3-2 to the Hurricanes final sequence earlier than successful each in seven video games.
Indeed, this has been unfamiliar territory for Gallant’s younger crew that’s studying on the fly with every of those playoff video games. We already know the Rangers have the resilience and grit to come back again. Where do you assume the “No give up in New York’’ slogan got here from?
Now the Rangers will learn the way good they are as front-runners.
“For positive, I believe we all know how they’re feeling, being down,’’ Rangers winger Alexis LaFreniere mentioned. “We have been down the primary two sequence. We must handle these leads and be prepared for the complete 60 [minutes].’’
While they didn’t play poorly Sunday — they have been tied at 2-2 with lower than a minute remaining in regulation — ultimately the Rangers did not cross their first take a look at as front-runners.
Now they must take care of a Lightning crew that believes it has discovered its footing on this sequence. That leaves the Blueshirts in a little bit of a nervy place.
“Yeah, we’re getting a number of expertise,’’ Gallant mentioned with a smile and a sigh, referring to the ever-changing eventualities his crew has confronted in these playoffs.
Experience is a weapon for the Lightning for the time being, having received the previous two Cups and with a roster laden with stars.
“We needed to cease the Rangers’ roll,’’ Lightning coach Jon Cooper mentioned. “And hopefully that purpose with 42 seconds [Sunday] put a bit pin of their bubble.’’
There was distinct vibe from Cooper and a few of his gamers that they imagine they discovered a method for beating the Rangers.
“Eight minutes left within the second interval of Game 2,’’ Cooper mentioned when requested when he felt issues change, talking about puck possession and puck administration and the way the Lightning grew to become the higher crew at even power, which certainly, was the case in Game 3.
“Things began to click on,’’ Cooper mentioned. “We didn’t pull that recreation out. We have been shut. Probably didn’t should win that recreation ultimately. But that’s when issues modified for us, that time in Game 2.’’
Tampa Bay winger Corey Perry, who spends a lot time tenting in entrance of Igor Shesterkin he ought to pitch a tent, mentioned additionally he felt the sequence shift in that second interval of Game 2 on the Garden.
“We discovered our legs, we understood the place we have been,’’ he mentioned. “It’s Eastern Conference Final. There’s solely a handful of video games left. I believe guys actually purchased in and it’s a kind of issues the place it might need simply clicked and we discovered our groove.’’
As assured as the Tampa camp sounded, there, too, was warning.
“By no means can we cling our hat simply because we scored a purpose with 42 seconds left and received a hockey recreation and assume, ‘Oh, we’re good,’ ’’ Cooper mentioned. “That recreation had additional time written throughout it, and who is aware of what occurs then? It could be beginner of us to assume that as a result of we snuck a recreation out at that finish to assume, ‘Oh, we’re good.’ ’’
Perry mentioned the message along with his membership is common.
“It’s going to should be the identical [Tuesday],’’ he mentioned. “We should exit and do it yet again. You can’t take simply being at residence with no consideration.’’
The Rangers can’t, both.