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Rangers believe another playoff comeback possible

New York trails Pittsburgh 3-1 in series, but has rallied from same deficit past two years

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Comfortable isn't the appropriate word to use, because no team is comfortable when facing elimination going into Game 5 of a Stanley Cup Playoff series.

Confident might not fit either, despite what the New York Rangers players are saying, because how can they be confident in their ability to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins after losing 5-0 to them in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference First Round on Thursday?

What about belief? Yes, that works, and for a good reason.

The Rangers have been down this road before only to make the turn, see the light, and come out the other side.

Down 3-1 against the Penguins in the second round two years ago, the Rangers rallied to win three straight to move on. Down 3-1 against the Washington Capitals in the second round last year, the Rangers rallied to win three straight to move on.

They are the only NHL team to win a playoff series after trailing 3-1 in back-to-back seasons (the Minnesota Wild did it twice in the same season, 2003). The Rangers will have to make history again if they want to advance in the playoffs this season, because they face the same 3-1 deficit going into Game 5 at Consol Energy Center on Saturday (3 p.m. ET; NBC, SN360, TVA Sports).

"You can't think that because you've done it in the past, you're necessarily going to do it, but you can believe a little bit," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. "We've been there. We've been in those situations."

Video: PIT@NYR, Gm3: McDonagh puts a big hit on Rust

This is what the Rangers do. Their modus operandi is to make it hard on themselves before they start making it hard on their opponent. It might not be the textbook way of winning in the postseason, but it seems to work for them, or at least it has in the past.

They are 15-4 in their past 19 potential elimination games. Henrik Lundqvist has been in net for every one of those games, in which he has a 1.50 goals-against average and .953 save percentage.

"It says a lot about our group," defenseman Keith Yandle said.

But it says nothing about being able to do it again this year. As Lundqvist noted, the past is irrelevant to the Rangers' big picture.

"It's now," he said. "It's what we do this year, in this series. Every year you go through different experiences and you learn from it, but it's up to us now to step up here. That's it. Just try to bring it back home one more time."

All signs point to that being highly unlikely.

The Rangers have regressed during the series while the Penguins seem to be getting better and finding their stride with their full lineup, minus goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. Then again, 21-year-old rookie Matt Murray has looked pretty good in goal the past two games.

"He has played extremely well," Vigneault said.

Video: PIT@NYR, Gm4: Murray shuts out Rangers in Game 4

Pittsburgh's special teams have been dominant, with a power play that is 7-for-19 and a penalty kill that is 15-for-16.

Vigneault admitted he's searching for answers, which is why he's considering putting defenseman Raphael Diaz in for Game 5. Diaz hasn't played an NHL game since he was with the Calgary Flames in the playoffs last season.

"We all know right now our power play and penalty killing aren't at their best," Vigneault said. "So I'm looking for solutions there and I'm looking at all options now."

The Penguins' stars have been dominant.

Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin each have six points, including a combined five goals. Malkin had two goals and two assists in Game 4. Patric Hornqvist had a hat trick and four points in Game 1. Phil Kessel, Kris Letang and Nick Bonino each have four points.

The Penguins' team defense has impenetrable. The Rangers scored one goal and had 48 shots on goal in Games 3 and 4 at Madison Square Garden. They have been shut out in eight of the 12 periods so far. Their seven goals match what the Penguins have totaled on their power play.

"We know we're playing a good team," Lundqvist said. "We know they're confident. But at the same time, the last time we were in [Pittsburgh] we managed to win. We just need to do everything right."

"Everything" is an exaggeration, but not a wild one.

The Rangers did almost everything right in Game 2 and they won 4-2 because of a heavy, dominant forecheck that helped get them three 5-on-5 goals in a span of 4:14 in the second period. That negated Pittsburgh's two power-play goals.

Video: NYR@PIT, Gm2: Rangers net three in 2nd, take control

The problem is the Penguins basically have done everything right since, and outscored the Rangers 8-1 in winning Games 3 and 4 in New York.

"Everybody to a man knows we can play better than we have," Vigneault said.

It's foolish to think the Rangers can just flip this series around in Game 5, but they're not thinking that way. They're thinking about playing a solid road game. That's also what they did going into Pittsburgh for Game 5 two years ago.

They won 5-1 and never looked back until they met up with the Los Angeles Kings in the Stanley Cup Final.

"You have to believe that you can do it and it starts with the one game [Saturday]," Lundqvist said. "You have to believe."

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