The New York Rangers were in a similar position before this postseason — trying to reverse the momentum after dropping two games on the road.
In their first round with Pittsburgh, they fell into a hole in the 3-1 Series and then returned home, winning three straight wins and moving forward. In the second round, they went down 2-0, winning four of the next five to move on.
Now, they want to turn the tide in Game 5 on Thursday night (8 pm EDT, ESPN) at Madison Square Garden, with two defending Stanley Cup champions Tampa Bay Lightning and 2- in the Eastern Conference Finals. I’ll be back in New York, which was tied in 2. Two of the last three games were played at home and won eight straight games.
“I think we’re in the best place ever in the three series,” forward Andrew Copp said Wednesday. “I played two games at home. I think we’re playing really well at home …. I think we’re confident in where we are now, but sure. The level of despair needs to rise. “
The Rangers are trying to rediscover an attack that appeared to be rolling along the first two games when it surpassed Lightning 9-4. They won 7-3 in two games in Tampa.
New York led 2-0 in the middle of Game 3, and Tampa Bay scored three times to win. Lightning then removed the Rangers from the scoreboard until the second half of the third period of the 4-1 victory in Game 4 on Tuesday night.
“They didn’t make any mistakes and didn’t have much chance of scoring,” said Rangers coach Gerard Gallant. “They didn’t create too many scoring opportunities, but there was no mistake. I think it’s due to the experience of the winning team. They don’t give up too much and that’s how you win the Stanley Cup.”
The Rangers aren’t discouraged by the road defeat, which is 2-7 this postseason. They also know what needs to be improved from the last two games. Play more physically and do a better job to get a scoring chance against Andrey Vasilevsky.
They expect a boost by playing at their undefeated home since falling into three extra times in Game 1 of the first round with Pittsburgh.
“This is the best of the three in the finals of the Eastern Conference and it’s exciting as a group,” said defensive Jacob Torva. “We are in a pretty good place here. We will go home and do what we can to win the game.”
Lightning is trying to further strengthen its home-generated momentum after showing signs of rust at the start of the series, following a nine-day layoff after finishing Florida’s second sweep. Tampa Bay had won six straight games before dropping the first two games against the Rangers.
Lightning turned it around in this series by defensively tightening, clogging New York’s overtaking lane and forcing most of the Rangers’ shots out. Several times they approached, Vasilevsky was there to close the door.
“The last few games have been desperate,” said Lightning captain Stephen Stemkos. “We knew how important it was for them to return to this series. But we can’t just sit in our hands and be happy with it. We move forward. I had to continue …. I’m sure despair will start for them now. “
By playing at a higher level of urgency, Tampa Bay, who won 10 playoff series in the last three postseasons, was also more disciplined by moving away from the penalty box. The Rangers, who played the league’s best power in the postseason, had only two chances in Game 4.
“I talked to Captain of Bius because they have even more extraordinary power play,” Cooper said. “He says that if you keep them away from power play, it will probably help your game, and he was really right.”
Gallant knows that simply going home is not enough. The Rangers need to enhance their play in Game 5 and may not have two injured centers, Ryan Strom and Philip Hitil.
Strom missed Game 4 with his lower body injured in the previous game. He skated in the pre-match warm-up but didn’t play. Hichil left the match on Tuesday night past the midpoint of the second period after being hit by Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman. He missed the rest of the match due to an injury to his upper body.
“It will be a fight,” said the coach. “We’ve been playing against teams that have had a lot of experience over the last three years, but you know they’re not going to give it to us. Go out and take it. It needs to be, and that’s what we have to do. “
AP Sports writer Fred Goodall contributed to this report. ___
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Rangers in a familiar location return home after two road losses | WGN Radio 720
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