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Rangers hoping to solve home woes

New York, which has lost six straight in playoffs at MSG, looks to end streak in Game 4 against Canadiens

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

NEW YORK -- Whether New York Rangers coach Alain Vigneault rehearsed it or thought of it on the spot, he used an analogy Monday that he thinks is apropos to their position, both in the series and in the big ugly picture depicting their record at Madison Square Garden.

The Rangers trail the Montreal Canadiens 2-1 in the best-of-7 Eastern Conference First Round after losing 3-1 in Game 3 at the Garden on Sunday. They have been outscored 21-4 there in losing six straight home games in the Stanley Cup Playoffs dating to Game 2 of the 2015 Eastern Conference Final. They have lost nine of their past 11 home games this season (2-6-3).

"The analogy I've got to give you is, if you go to play golf and you have a bad round, if you bring that bad round the next game, you're going to have a tough time," Vigneault said. "You've got to knock it out of your mind and go out and play.

"That's what the guy that just won the Masters did."

Vigneault was referring to Sergio Garcia, who at the age of 37, 19 years into his professional golf career, won the Masters on April 9. It was his first career PGA major tournament victory.

Vigneault thinks the Rangers can take it as a lesson when they go into Game 4 against the Canadiens at the Garden on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports, MSG).

"He knocked all those bad whether it be rounds or majors out of his head, and he went out and won," Vigneault said. "Most of the experts, most of the people, most of the fans thought that he couldn't do it. He did. That's the beauty of sports; you get opportunities and that's what we're going to get [Tuesday]."

The Rangers likely won't make the most of the opportunity if they play the way they did in Game 3, when they said they worked hard enough but were guilty of not working smart enough.

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Giveaways plagued them.

"We had a lot of unforced turnovers [Sunday] that we need to correct," Vigneault said.

The Rangers had no forecheck because the majority of their dump-ins went straight to Canadiens goalie Carey Price, who is no stranger to playing the puck and playing it well.

"If he gets it, he's going to get it out of there and it's going to be tough to forecheck," center Derek Stepan said.

Tape-to-tape passes went off the tape and out of reach. They had no transition game, their bread and butter all season. They had no pressure, which is why they had 12 shots on goal through two periods, six in the first and six in the second.

And their power play is simply being eaten up by Montreal's penalty kill. It went 0-for-3 with three shots on goal and is 0-for-10 with 11 shots on goal in the series.

"Offensively, we need to do more, create more," Rangers forward J.T. Miller said. "I'm not saying low-percentage plays and high-risk across the middle of the ice. I'm saying we need to establish a forecheck and keep the puck and make them defend. We have not made them defend enough to this point."

Although it may not be fair to single him out, a perfect example is center Mika Zibanejad, who admitted Monday that he hasn't been difficult to defend.

"When I play my best game I'm keeping the puck, I'm holding onto it, I'm dragging them to me to take a play, and I'm not doing that right now," Zibanejad said. "Right now, it's just gripping the stick a little too hard, almost more afraid of making mistakes then willing to make a play."

Zibanejad said ideally when he gets the puck in Game 4, he's going to hold on to it, try to draw defenders to him, basically bet on his skill.

"Personally I'd rather make a mistake when I'm trying, when I'm skating with the puck and trying to make a play than a mistake when I'm passive and I get the puck stripped from me," Zibanejad said. "We have enough skilled guys here that we can make that play. You have to take a chance at some point."

That goes to a theme Stepan was harping on Monday, working hard vs. working smart. The former can help a team stay in the game even if it's getting outplayed, like the Rangers did in Game 3. The latter is the difference in winning the game.

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The Rangers feel they can play an intelligent Game 4, but they'll be in dangerous territory if their brains are stuck on the storyline hovering over them, that they can't win at home when it matters.

"I'm looking at one thing: In 2017 in the playoffs we've had one loss," Vigneault said. "Different group. Different year. Now obviously we didn't pick a good time [Sunday] to have a very ordinary game, but [Tuesday] we've got an opportunity to make this series 2-2 and anybody who believes that this group doesn't want to play well, doesn't want to win, doesn't know what they're talking about.

"It's on the coaches to tell the players and the players to execute. They will."

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