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Rangers don't want to trade chances with Lightning

by Brian Compton

TAMPA -- The New York Rangers have shown tremendous ability to respond after back-to-back losses.

That's why there still is plenty of confidence throughout their dressing room heading into Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Friday at Amalie Arena (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports), when they'll attempt to even this best-of-7 series at two games apiece.

After winning Game 1 by a 2-1 score, the Rangers have allowed 12 goals during the past two games. They rallied from a 4-2 deficit in Game 3 on Wednesday but lost 6-5 in overtime.

Since a 6-3 loss to the Lightning on Dec. 1, the Rangers have lost consecutive games seven times. They followed each sequence by winning at least three in a row.

"We're not 0-3 in the series and facing elimination right now," center Derick Brassard said Friday. "We're just losing 2-1. This game's obviously important tonight, but we have a lot of experience in previous years in the [Stanley Cup] Playoffs and we have a lot of character in this room. Guys are going to bounce back. We just have to be better. Obviously we're facing a really good team and we just have to focus on our game and the way we've been playing all season long to be successful. If we do that we will have a better chance to win than we did in the last two games."

The Rangers played an NHL-record 15 consecutive one-goal games, dating to last season's Stanley Cup Final, before a 6-2 loss to the Lightning in Game 2. The Lightning scored another six goals in Game 3, a run-and-gun affair that the Rangers might want to avoid if they hope to return to the Final.

"Some games evolve in different fashions," coach Alain Vigneault said. "I think we're capable of playing a multitude of ways. We play solid defensive games, and if it opens up we can play offense too. Obviously we're coming in here tonight against a real skilled team and we'll see what happens."

But if New York finds itself in another high-scoring game, is it imperative that forward Rick Nash contributes? He had 42 goals during the regular season but has two goals in 15 playoff games.

"If you score five on the road you usually win," Vigneault said. "If he's part of that five that's good. Obviously we know the importance of tonight's game. They're up 2-1. It's a real big game for us and we're going to be ready."

The Rangers had a 2-0 lead in Game 3 before the Lightning responded by scoring the next four goals. Now that they've had an up-close look at just how skilled the Lightning are, it's crucial the Rangers find a way to limit the Grade-A opportunities.

"We can't really be trading chances," Brassard said. "Early on in the playoffs everyone was telling us to score more goals to win games. Now we score a lot of goals, we lost a game and we have to go back to where it was. I think we figure that it's not going to be a high-scoring game and we haven't played like that all season long. Obviously in the playoffs you're going to face some different teams, different styles. I think this style is maybe a little different than we played in the first two games. But we just have to defend well and we have to pick our spots when we want to take some chances to score some goals. If you miss the net or you're taking a chance, they're going to go right back the other way. That's what they want.

"The pace of the game is fast. Obviously it's the playoffs right now. Both teams want to win. There's a lot of good skaters on the ice; I think that explains why it's so fast. We're comfortable playing a fast game. We just have to be a little smarter."

Here are the projected lineups:


Rick Nash - Derick Brassard - Kevin Hayes

Chris Kreider - Derek Stepan - Jesper Fast

Carl Hagelin - Dominic Moore - Martin St. Louis

Tanner Glass - James Sheppard - J.T. Miller

Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi

Marc Staal - Dan Boyle

Keith Yandle - Kevin Klein

Henrik Lundqvist

Cam Talbot

Scratched: Ryan Bourque, Matt Hunwick, Chris Summers

Injured: Mats Zuccarello (upper body)


Alex Killorn - Valtteri Filppula - Steven Stamkos

Nikita Kucherov - Tyler Johnson - Ondrej Palat

Brian Boyle - Cedric Paquette - Ryan Callahan

J.T. Brown - Brenden Morrow

Victor Hedman - Anton Stralman

Braydon Coburn - Jason Garrison

Nikita Nesterov - Andrej Sustr

Mark Barberio

Ben Bishop

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Scratched: Jonathan Drouin, Jonathan Marchessault, Vladislav Namestnikov

Injured: Matthew Carle (undisclosed)

Status update: Zuccarello skated Thursday but did not participate in the morning skate. He hasn't played since Game 5 of the first round against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Who's hot: Stepan has three goals and five assists during a six-game point streak. ... Fast scored two goals in Game 3.


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