"We worked for too long and too hard to go out in four straight," Lundqvist said.
He was right, but now they'll have to avoid going down in five to the Boston Bruins. The challenge remains just as daunting as it was when they trailed 3-0, except at least the Rangers are entering Game 5 Saturday at TD Garden (5:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN, RDS) with some momentum and confidence after their 4-3, come-from-behind, overtime win in Game 4 Thursday.
"It's two teams that play pretty similar when both teams play at its best," Lundqvist said. "I think for a couple of games they were the better team, but for the second half [of Game 4], I thought we really turned the momentum and played a really strong game, so hopefully we can continue that."
For the Rangers to force a Game 6 back at Madison Square Garden on Monday, they're going to have to at least do these three things:
1. Activate the 'D'
The Rangers started to get more from their defensemen soon after Carl Hagelin made it 2-1 with his fluky goal in the second period in Game 4. They were on their heels and staying too far back before Hagelin scored, but the momentum shift afterward was evident and it was aided by the Rangers getting more offense from their defensemen.
Ryan McDonagh, Dan Girardi, Michael Del Zotto and John Moore weren't overly risky, but they weren't hanging back either. They started to try to dictate the pace after Hagelin scored, and it helped the forwards on the forecheck.
"I thought their pinches and sitting in on guys were better and it helped us keep the puck in the zone," captain Ryan Callahan told NHL.com. "That's so important. That's a big part of our offense. For us to keep the puck in the zone, it's our [defensemen] sitting in there and keeping pucks in for us. When we started to build in the second half we were moving the puck up quick and getting back in their zone, and the [defensemen] are part of that."
Callahan wouldn't say that was a problem in the first three-and-a-half games of the series, but he did admit the Rangers needed to be better at that part of the game. They finally were in the second half of Game 4, and it has to carry into Game 5.
"It's important to always have our [defensemen] up the ice," forward Derek Stepan told NHL.com. "Within a game it's important for defenseman to get up the ice and make it a four-man rush. I can't tell you exactly if [Game 4] it happened at a certain point, but as a group they're focusing on it and trying to get better."
2. Quick, connected passes on the power play
Well-publicized for all the wrong reasons, New York's much-maligned power play was better in Game 4. The Rangers even scored a goal on the power play -- an important one at that, with Brian Boyle tying the game 10 minutes into the third period with a shot from the slot off the rush.
Why was the power play more dangerous even when it didn't score? The answer is simple.
"We were moving the puck a little bit better, creating more opportunities," Callahan said. "It's a matter of getting just one or two passes together and executing it. We know what we're supposed to do; we just have to execute it. I thought [Game 4] it was better."
Executing against the Bruins' aggressive penalty kill is tough. Not only does Boston apply pressure all over the zone, but it is good at disrupting opportunities by getting in the passing lanes and quickly clearing the puck down the ice.
By moving the puck quickly, the Rangers also got the Bruins' penalty killers moving. That left openings in the middle, like the one Boyle found on his game-tying goal.
3. Don't get burned when Boston inevitably surges
Rangers coach John Tortorella dissected the reason his team trails the series 3-1 in a couple of quick sentences Friday afternoon.
"You may need a couple of great saves, it's just when a team is surging on you, don't get hurt," Tortorella said. "That's what we always say, don't get hurt. We haven't done a great job of that, and that's why we're at where we're at right now. As we continue to go through here, we need to be better with those situations."
They were in overtime Thursday, but barely. At one point the Bruins surged and the Rangers couldn't get the puck out of the zone, leaving their third defense pair of Steve Eminger and Roman Hamrlik on the ice for a three-minute shift. Lundqvist made five saves before an offside call gave the Rangers a chance to change it up at the 6:54 mark.
Chris Kreider scored the overtime winner nine seconds later.
"We talk about momentum swings and surges every pregame," Tortorella said. "That's hurt us this series."
Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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