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Rangers excited about chance to take 3-1 series lead

by Dan Rosen /

PITTSBURGH -- The New York Rangers will try to do something Wednesday that they haven't been all that good at in recent years -- take a 3-1 lead in a best-of-7 Stanley Cup Playoff series.

The Rangers lead the Pittsburgh Penguins 2-1 in the Eastern Conference First Round heading into Game 4 on Wednesday at Consol Energy Center (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN360, TVA Sports 2, ROOT, MSG).

New York has had the opportunity to go up 3-1 in five playoff series going back to the 2012 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals; it has lost Game 4 four times. The one time the Rangers won Game 4 to take a 3-1 lead was last year in the Eastern Conference Final against the Montreal Canadiens.

In addition, since 2012 the Rangers are 1-12 in games played after they have taken a lead in the series. The one win came in Game 2 against the Canadiens last year.

"It is a great opportunity for us," Rangers left wing Carl Hagelin said. "Coming in here and winning [Game 3], being up 2-1 in the series and having that chance to go up 3-1, it's huge for us. That's our plan. We need to keep playing the way we did last game defensively and maybe a few more good shifts in the offensive zone wouldn't hurt."

Hagelin includes himself and his line in that analysis of having to play more in the offensive zone. The Rangers' third line of Hagelin, Kevin Hayes and Martin St. Louis has not been as effective in generating offensive zone time as their other three lines through three games.

Hagelin, Hayes and St. Louis have combined for 13 shots on goal and 19 shot attempts at even strength in the series. Hagelin has one point on a goal in Game 3 when the Rangers caught Pittsburgh in a line change, but Hayes and St. Louis have been held off the scoresheet.

"We have to do more," St. Louis said. "I don't think there is a lot of room to begin with, but you've have to create your room. You need bounces, and you've have to create your bounces. I think you have to be demanding of yourself. We have to find a way to help out more."

Hagelin answered "definitely" when he was asked if they can find more ice for themselves in the neutral zone and the offensive zone.

"We can do a better job in maybe holding onto pucks, spend some more time and get some confidence having some good cycles, a couple good cutbacks, shots," Hagelin said. "That's something we definitely need to focus on tonight, our line spending more time in the offensive zone."

They don't expect it to be easy, especially early in the game. The Penguins have been talking since the end of Game 3 about the need for a better start in Game 4, especially because the Rangers have scored the first goal in each game so far and had 2-0 leads in their two wins.

Pittsburgh didn't have a shot on goal until 15:10 of the first period in Game 3, and even that was a slap shot from near the red line by defenseman Ben Lovejoy.

"I kind of expect them to come a little harder tonight," Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist said. "I heard they talked a lot about it. We just have to be ready for it, focus on our game. In the two games we won we've played really well and there are a lot of good things we can continue to do."

Here are the projected lineups:


Rick Nash - Derick Brassard - Mats Zuccarello

Chris Kreider - Derek Stepan - J.T. Miller

Carl Hagelin - Kevin Hayes - Martin St. Louis

Tanner Glass - Dominic Moore - Jesper Fast

Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi

Marc Staal - Dan Boyle

Keith Yandle - Matt Hunwick

Henrik Lundqvist

Cam Talbot

Scratched: Chris Summers, James Sheppard

Injured: Kevin Klein (arm)


Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - Patric Hornqvist

Blake Comeau - Evgeni Malkin - David Perron

Scott Wilson - Brandon Sutter - Steve Downie

Nick Spaling - Maxim Lapierre - Daniel Winnik

Paul Martin - Ben Lovejoy

Rob Scuderi - Ian Cole

Brian Dumoulin - Taylor Chorney

Marc-Andre Fleury

Thomas Greiss

Scratched: Craig Adams, Scott Harrington

Injured: Beau Bennett (upper body), Kris Letang (concussion), Christian Ehrhoff (upper body), Derrick Pouliot (upper body), Pascal Dupuis (blood clot), Olli Maatta (upper body)

Status report: Yandle didn't participate in the morning skate Wednesday but Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said he will play. Yandle also did not skate prior to the game Monday because he wasn't feeling well, but he played 25 shifts totaling 15:49 of ice time and he had an assist on Hagelin's goal that put the Rangers ahead 1-0 in the first period. "He's still not 100 percent so saving the energy for the game," Vigneault said. … Klein, who hasn't played since March 11 because of a broken left arm, is getting closer to returning to the lineup. "I saw him out there just before coming slapping pucks," Vigneault said. "That's the first time I've seen him do that so I would say that he's close to having a full practice with the team, but I'm not sure at this time of the year we have a lot of full practices so maybe at some point we'll have to consider a morning skate a full practice."

Who's hot: Girardi has a team-high three assists in the series, including two in Game 3. They are all secondary assists. … Nash has a team-high three points in the series on a goal and two assists. He did not have a point in Game 3. … Yandle has two primary assists in the series.


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