Rangers look to improve TONIGHT bug

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Perspective is the focus for the New York Rangers as they prepare for Game 2 against the Florida Panthers at Madison Square Garden on Friday (8 p.m. ET; ESPN+, ESPN, SN, TVAS, CBC) after digesting their 3-0 loss in Game 1 on Wednesday.

As disappointed as they are with the result of Game 1, the Rangers also realize they weren't that far away from having a 1-0 lead in the best-of-7 series instead of being down 1-0.

"We all know in that locker room a couple bounces here, a couple bounces there, it could have been a different story," defenseman K'Andre Miller said. "We had our chances. We had some good looks. We obviously didn't capitalize but I still think we produced enough to score."

They didn't, and that's why the postgame analysis after Game 1 is all about what they need to do better.

"A lot of execution issues," coach Peter Laviolette said. "Things that are not typically us."

But Game 1 was also a one-goal game until the Panthers got a fortunate bounce off forward Alexis Lafrenière's stick to make it 2-0 with 3:48 remaining in the third period. An empty-net goal by center Sam Bennett at 18:41 sealed it and made the score look more lopsided than the game was.

There's a positive for New York in that. As off as the Rangers were in their execution, as disconnected as they were on their breakouts, as passive as they were in the offensive zone, they were right there, one shot away from tying the game for 39:46, from the time forward Matthew Tkachuk scored at 16:26 of the first period to forward Carter Verhaeghe's goal off Lafreniere's stick at 16:12 of the third.

They were not dominated physically or possession-wise.

The shots on goal were 27-24 in favor of the Panthers, the shot attempts 65-63 Florida's way.

The Rangers hit the post twice, the Panthers once.

Neither team scored on the power play, Florida going 0-for-3, New York 0-for-2.

"You go back and look at the chances, it's kind of an even game," Laviolette said. "It sits at the 50 percent mark, but I just look at some of the crispness and execution and skating and movements and the coverage. It's not a lot, but there are things I feel we could have done better that maybe could have pushed it in our direction. … Just small things that can be better."

Laviolette said this feels different than the second round, when the Rangers were somewhat fortunate to be up 3-0 on the Carolina Hurricanes before the series started to tilt away from them.

Carolina had New York on its heels. The Hurricanes kept coming in waves, controlling possession, dominating the shot clock. It took a legendary performance from forward Chris Kreider to fuel a third-period comeback in Game 6 for the Rangers to avoid a Game 7.

"I don't think it was that," Laviolette said of Game 1 against Florida. "I don't feel like we were under siege. I don't feel like we were real vulnerable at times defensively.

"There were adjustments to be made in the Carolina series systematically because I didn't like what I was seeing, I didn't like how it was coming at us. We changed parts of our game, big parts of our game to try to make up for that, but I didn't feel like it was that last night. I feel like it's on us to play a better game inside of how we go about our business on the ice."

That means quicker puck movement on breakouts, dumping the puck in behind the Panthers' defensemen and forechecking them, the forwards getting up the ice faster and the defensemen pushing up too. That also means more of a shot mentality in the offensive zone.

"You hear the word 'simple' a lot," defenseman Adam Fox said. "It's easy to say. They come at you real fast. Their 'D' get up in the play and have those tight gaps. We talk about breakouts and I think the shorter it's on your stick the better.

"Working in those five-man units and just being able to move up and down the ice as a group, play a simple game in that sense. They want you to bring it back to get through the neutral zone, so just get it behind them and get on the forecheck. That's what they do. They get it behind you, get on the forecheck and get O-zone time. I think using that is where we'll have success."

Those aren't systematic changes. That's just working smarter, focusing on execution, honing in on the details of the game. If Florida were that much better than New York in Game 1 the mentality would be different. But it wasn't.

However, it's worth noting the Rangers after Game 1 feel the same as the Hurricanes felt after each game against the Panthers in the conference final last year.

Carolina was close, one shot away in every game.

Florida won in a sweep.

So if the Rangers' execution isn't better in Game 2, a repeat of the conference final last year would be possible.

Right there. So close. Winless.

"Throughout the year we've done a good job of responding after losses," Fox said. "Adjustments are a big factor in that, but mentality and just realizing what you were lacking in the game before, whether it's execution, urgency, it's understanding that and responding for a big game."