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Round 2

5 Rangers who need to play better in Game 3

Rick Nash, Henrik Lundqvist among players who must pick up their game against Senators

by Dan Rosen @DRosenNHL / NHL.com Senior Writer

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- The New York Rangers are down but still confident.

The Rangers like the way they have played for most of the first two games of their Eastern Conference Second Round series against the Ottawa Senators, but trail the best-of-7 series 2-0.

New York lost 2-1 in Game 1 on a late goal and gave up a two-goal lead late in regulation before losing 6-5 in double overtime in Game 2.

 

[RELATED: Complete Senators vs. Rangers series coverage]

 

Game 3 is at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports). Here are five Rangers who have to be better than they were in Game 2:

 

J.T. Miller

Miller is still looking for his first goal in the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Maybe he'll get a better chance to score if he plays a smarter game.

Miller was credited with four giveaways in Game 2. He also had a hooking penalty at 7:30 of the first period on Ottawa center Derick Brassard when the Senators were trying to break out of their zone.

He was demoted to the fourth line at the start of the second period.

"Just don't turn the puck over. That's it," Miller said. "I think I've been skating well. I think I've been on the forecheck. I haven't been that physical, but I've been getting onto pucks first a lot. Because of the way they're set up if you can get it in with speed a lot of times you're going to come up with it. I think I've been doing a good job with that, but obviously you can't turn the puck over."

 

Rick Nash

It's hard to be critical of Nash when he was a great defensive play by Senators center Kyle Turris away from scoring the winner in the first overtime of Game 2.

Nash stole the puck from goalie Craig Anderson and came around the right post with an open net to shoot at. Turris reached his stick in and blocked Nash's shot with his blade. Nash said he has been replaying that play in his mind since the Rangers lost the game.

"Maybe over a thousand times," Nash said.

Nash, though, hasn't been the same type of force against Ottawa as he was in the first-round series against the Montreal Canadiens, when he was dominating on the puck and taking it to the net.

His line, with Derek Stepan and Jimmy Vesey, has not produced an even-strength point.

"I'm trying to play on the inside," Nash said. "I feel like I'm getting to the net. The battles are there. I've had some good net-front battles. As a line I think we just have to be around the puck more. I think another thing is our forecheck. We're not generating much off our forecheck."

Video: NYR@OTT, Gm2: Turris denies Nash in OT

 

Marc Staal and Nick Holden

A case can be made that New York's third defense pair of Brady Skjei and Brendan Smith has been better, but coach Alain Vigneault has continued to use Staal and Holden as the second pair. They were on the ice together for two goals against in Game 2, including Pageau's overtime winner.

That goal happened in part because Holden pinched down the right-wing wall and couldn't keep the puck in. Alexandre Burrows chipped it past him and out, sending Pageau and Tommy Wingels in for a 2-on-1 against Staal. Pageau kept the puck, shot and scored.

"Every team in the NHL I'm sure tells their defensemen if you're going to pinch and you're going to go down you have to make sure you have a high F3 there unless you're 100 percent sure you're going to get the puck and keep that puck in," Vigneault said. "Looking back on that I'm sure that's one Nick would like to have back because there was no F3 and he didn't get the puck so they were able to get the chip and get a 2-on-1 out of it."

Staal and Holden were also beaten on Mark Stone's goal at 1:28 of the third period. Dion Phaneuf's shot off of a faceoff win hit the end wall and bounced in front. Neither Rangers defenseman could play the puck. Stone got it instead and put it in.

Holden was partly to blame for Marc Methot's goal at 14:00 of the second period in Game 2. He didn't help Skjei stop Mike Hoffman's rush to the net, nor did he pick up Methot coming in for the rebound.

 

Henrik Lundqvist

Lundqvist was terrific in Game 1, making 41 saves. He gave up the winning goal on an odd-angle shot from defenseman Erik Karlsson that went in off his mask. He was pedestrian by comparison in Game 2, when he allowed six goals on 34 shots.

If Lundqvist is going to get the credit for getting the Rangers into the second round because of how well he played against Montreal, then he has to shoulder his share of the blame when he can't make five goals hold up for a win.

"It doesn't matter when you start the game [Tuesday] what the series stands at, 2-0, 1-1," Lundqvist said. "It doesn't matter. You have to focus on the process of playing your game and make the most of that opportunity. That's what we're going to do."

Video: NYR@OTT, Gm2: Lundqvist fights off Hoffman's backhand

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