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Berube: Expect Rangers to readjust in Game 4

Former coach says Penguins were perfect in neutral zone to take 2-1 series lead

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

For additional insight into the Eastern Conference First Round series between the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Rangers, NHL.com has enlisted the help of Craig Berube to break down the action. Berube will be checking in throughout the series.

Berube, 50, was coach of the Philadelphia Flyers from 2013-15. He was a Flyers' assistant coach for six seasons prior to being promoted to coach on Oct. 7, 2013. The Flyers were 75-58-28 under Berube. They made the Stanley Cup Playoffs and lost to the Rangers in the first round in 2014.

At the risk of sounding redundant, Game 3 between the New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins was won in the neutral zone, just like Game 2 and arguably Game 1.

This time, though, it was the Penguins dominating the critical area in the middle of the ice, leading to a 3-1 win at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday that gave them a 2-1 lead in the best-of-7 Eastern Conference First Round series.

"The Penguins defended the neutral zone a lot better," former Philadelphia Flyers coach Craig Berube said.

Berube wasn't surprised they did. This has been a series of adjustments, so he figured the Penguins would alter their thinking from Game 2, when they Rangers were all over them, getting the puck in deep, pounding on the 'D' and creating goals off the forecheck.

The Rangers had 28 shots, including 25 at even strength, and 57 hits in a 4-2 win in Game 2. They had 17 shots, 13 at even strength, and 41 hits in Game 3. They had four shots in the third period, two after they were chasing a one-goal deficit created on Matt Cullen's eventual game-winning goal at 4:16. Their only goal was on Rick Nash's shorthanded breakaway.

Video: PIT@NYR, Gm3: Nash opens scoring with top-shelf SHG

"The Penguins 'D' had great gaps and there was back pressure from the forwards," Berube said. "They were aggressive. They checked really well. They neutralized the Rangers forecheck. Any time the Rangers even got in on the forecheck they had help right away and broke the puck out real well. And they gave the Rangers no second opportunities around the net other than the goal that got disallowed. They had four or five guys around the net all night."

He also felt the Rangers didn't help themselves.

"The Rangers seemed spread out in that game, not a whole lot of support on the puck anywhere," Berube said. "They had bad execution in that game."

Rangers center Derek Stepan commented on the execution after the game, saying they were guilty of trying to skate or pass the puck through the neutral zone.

"Terrible job," Stepan said, twice.

Terrible idea.

Video: PIT@NYR, Gm3: Cullen gives Penguins their first lead

"They were trying to make these long plays all game and the Penguins were right on top of them," Berube said. "Instead of the Rangers coming back, coming up with some speed, coming up together as a group so you can make some plays and attack, kick it to the outside and skate, get involved that way, it seemed like they were just sporadic." 

But since this has been a series of adjustments, Berube expects the Rangers to bring a different type of attack in Game 4 on Thursday (7 p.m. ET; CNBC, SN, TVA Sports, ROOT, MSG). He expects them to play the way they did in Game 2.

"[Coach] Alain Vigneault is going to have his team ready to go, and they're going to put a lot more pressure on the Penguins next game, you can guarantee that," Berube said. "They're going to be more physical. They're going to be stronger on the forecheck. They're going to get more pucks to the net. They're going to get some second and third opportunities next game."

It'll be up to the Penguins to adjust to that.

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