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Power play has been saving grace for Rangers

by Dave Lozo

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- With all things being equal, the New York Rangers are having a hard time scoring goals during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but their power play has quietly been their saving grace.

Of the four teams remaining in the playoffs, the Rangers are the worst at generating offense during 5-on-5 play. They are averaging 1.25 goals per game at 5-on-5, a steep drop from the regular season when they averaged 1.83 per game, which ranked 15th in the NHL.

Sure, the Rangers have used their stingy defense and Hart Trophy-nominated goaltender to make it to the Eastern Conference Finals, but their once inept power play has carried the offense in the postseason like it never did during the regular season.

"We've scored some big goals in the playoffs when we've had to. We still want to be better, but sometimes it's the timing of goals or when you're scoring goals that make a power play. We're still here playing, so it's helped us when we needed it." -- Rangers' Brad Richards

The Rangers' power play converted 15.7 percent of the time during the regular season and finished ranked 23rd. Of their 222 goals in the regular season, 44 of them (19.8 percent) came with the man-advantage.

In the playoffs, the Rangers have leaned far more heavily on the power play. It ranks fourth overall and second among teams remaining in the playoffs at 18.5 percent, but it has accounted for 12 of their 34 goals, a whopping 35.2 percent of the offense.

Rangers coach John Tortorella, who always believes his players can be better no matter how well they may be playing, said that despite the statistical evidence, the power play could improve.

"I think it's been pretty (lousy) at times," Tortorella said. "We found a way to score a couple goals. The power play is a funny thing. Special teams are funny things. Sometimes even when there's some struggles, you find a way. Sometimes when you're moving the puck very well, it's working and you don't score. So we've scored a couple, but obviously we have to come in behind that with some 5-on-5."

The power play began to show signs of life toward the end of the regular season. In the Rangers' final six games, they went 8-for-27 on the power play and carried that into the conference quarterfinals against the Senators. In the Rangers' seven-game series win in the first round, they went 5-for-32 (15.6 percent) and scored twice with the man-advantage to win Game 6 in Ottawa while facing elimination.

The Rangers have five goals in two games of the conference finals against the Devils, three of which have come on the power play. In Game 2, defenseman Marc Staal scored off a crazy ricochet and bounce off the boards and Chris Kreider had a shot by defenseman Anton Stralman bounce off his body and past goaltender Martin Brodeur.


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According to Stralman, who has two of his three goals in the postseason on the power play, the change to the Rangers' approach was an easy one.

"More shots," Stralman said. "It's a simple recipe. We're getting more shots to the net; more bodies, too. The goal Kreids scored the other night, it wasn't a good shot from my side. It was just him being in front and being big. That's how goals get scored. That's not been a part of us."

Rangers captain Ryan Callahan hasn't been very productive at 5-on-5 during the playoffs. He has three goals in 16 games, but two of them have come on the power play. Callahan said the reason for the increased success in the postseason is the confidence that comes with executing in those situations.

"I think once you get one or two on the power play, you feel good out there," Callahan said. "You feel like you're dangerous on it. You feel like you can score goals. Once you start scoring goals on it, your confidence rises."

The Rangers' power play may have saved their season during Game 5 of the conference semifinals.

The Capitals were leading 2-1 late in the third period when Joel Ward was assessed a double-minor for high sticking. Brad Richards tied the game with 6.6 seconds remaining, with goaltender Henrik Lundqvist on the bench to create a two-man advantage, and Staal won it on the second half of the penalty with a blast from the point in overtime.

Instead of facing a 3-2 series deficit, something teams rarely overcome in the playoffs, they grabbed the 3-2 lead in the series and eventually won Game 7.

"Yeah, it's big," Staal said. "At times, it's gotten us some big goals. I think any time you can chip in one or two in a game, it's a huge help and it can boost your offense. We have to try to keep that going."

"We've scored some big goals in the playoffs when we've had to," Richards said. "We still want to be better, but sometimes it's the timing of goals or when you're scoring goals that make a power play. We're still here playing, so it's helped us when we needed it."

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo

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