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Rangers stick with same plan for Game 5 against Senators

New York will rely on strategy that broke down Ottawa's system in back-to-back wins

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / Senior Writer

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Considering how Games 3 and 4 played out, it almost feels like the New York Rangers have a 2-2 lead in the Eastern Conference Second Round against the Ottawa Senators.

Of course that's impossible. Basic math and all, you know.

But the point remains that the Rangers, so dominant in two 4-1 victories at Madison Square Garden that evened the best-of-7 series, have every reason to believe they are in control going into Game 5 at Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa on Saturday (3 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).

They're not acting like it, though. Or at the very least they're not talking like it. That's not a surprise coming from an experienced team like the Rangers that has played an NHL-high 59 Stanley Cup Playoff games since 2014, all under coach Alain Vigneault.

"That's super important, especially in the playoffs, that you move on quickly," said Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, who barely was tested while stopping 48 of 50 shots in the two wins. "You can't get stuck in what happened yesterday. It doesn't matter. It doesn't matter how you win games. It's about getting the wins. If it's 5-0 or 1-0, you move on. You try to get a good read on the good and the bad things you did and learn from it and then you try to get a little bit better for the next game."

The Rangers have no choice but to spend a lot of time on the good because there wasn't much bad in Games 3 and 4. The expectation has to be the same will happen in Game 5, which would mean that they will continue to break down and speed through the Senators' 1-3-1, a clogging system built to slow teams coming through the neutral zone.

The Rangers have gotten through it by making crisp, short tape-to-tape passes, high-percentage dump-ins with multiple forecheckers flying into the zone, and by blocking the Senators' perimeter shots and turning the rebounds into breakaways or odd-man rushes.

Video: Rangers tie the series up on home ice

Games 3 and 4 were a clinic for how to break down the system that has brought the Senators so much success this season.

"We are making plays that we need to make with the puck, and that's enabled us to get out of our zone fairly clean and through the neutral zone," Vigneault said. "We've been able to spend some time in their end and get some looks."

If it continues, the Rangers again will stifle the Senators' offensive chances. Even if the Senators have the puck, if all stays status quo the Rangers will box out and lift sticks in front of Lundqvist to negate the deflection opportunities that helped the Senators come back in Game 2, a 6-5 double-overtime victory.

"We had really good structure the last couple of games, didn't give up much," Lundqvist said. "They play a pretty structured game, but they can also strike if you make mistakes in the wrong area. But we haven't made a lot of mistakes in the last couple of games."

The Rangers also plan on sticking with their plan of setting up layers of shot blockers in front of Lundqvist. They blocked 41 shots to the Senators' 23 the past two games. The Rangers forwards blocked 16 shots; the Senators forwards blocked eight.

Center Oscar Lindberg scored on a 2-on-0 rush with forward Michael Grabner at 2:02 of the second period in Game 4 because of forward Tanner Glass' blocked shot.

"They shoot a lot of pucks from the point and they've got some guys with heavy shots," forward J.T. Miller said. "If it hits a shin pad like [Thursday] with [Glass and Grabner] on the ice, that's a prime situation that he can take one."

If everything goes according to plan, the Rangers feel they'll probably get the Senators to boil over again. The Senators called it emotion, but their play at the end of Game 4 looked to many like frustration.

Video: Bobby Ryan talks about the series against the Rangers

Senators forward Bobby Ryan slashed and horse-collared Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi to the ice, receiving a two-minute minor and a 10-minute misconduct at 17:32 of the third period. Senators forward Kyle Turris bull-rushed Glass in the corner and, as Glass said, got "the horns" in a fight. Turris also got an extra minor for roughing.

Ottawa forward Mark Stone took some liberties slashing Lindberg and forward Alexandre Burrows tried to go after Miller off a faceoff. Rangers forward Chris Kreider intervened and he and Burrows got 10-minute misconducts. Burrows also got a minor for slashing.

Defenseman Erik Karlsson, the Senators' captain and best player, wasn't involved in any of it. He's been playing with two hairline fractures in his left heel and coach Guy Boucher opted not to use him in the third period.

Boucher said Friday that he expects Karlsson to play in Game 5. But he's dealing with an injury, and the Rangers know it.

"Everyone is," Miller said when asked if they were aware of Karlsson's injury.

Basically things are going about as well as they possibly could go for the Rangers after falling behind 2-0 in the series. It should leave anybody paying attention with the feeling that they are in complete control and a repeat performance is coming in Game 5.

The Rangers have to feel that way too, but acting like it and talking like it leaves them vulnerable. So they won't.

"It's 2-2 and that's all it is," Lundqvist said. "We feel good but we're not overexcited. There's a lot of work ahead of us here to try to win this series."

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