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Rangers must limit penalties in Game 3 vs. Lightning

by Dan Rosen /



Best-of-7 series tied 1-1

TAMPA -- The New York Rangers are hoping the confidence they've carried into road games throughout the season makes a difference in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday at Amalie Arena.

New York set a franchise record for road wins with 28 in the regular season. It is 3-2 on the road in the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"We really don't talk about changing much," Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh said of the team's mindset on the road. "At this stage the crowd is going to be pretty energetic regardless of what's going on in the game. For us it's getting a hold of the puck and making good decisions with it and making sure we don't give it up easily against these guys."

The Rangers gave the puck away too easily and gave the Lightning too many power plays (six) in a 6t-2 loss in Game 2 at Madison Square Garden on Monday.

The loss ended New York's streak of 15 consecutive games decided by one goal in the playoffs and it was its most lopsided loss since Nov. 17, 5-1 to the Lightning at home.

"This is the Eastern Conference Final, there are only two teams here battling for a chance to go on to compete for the Cup," McDonagh said. "We've gotta give ourselves a better chance here to keep this dream alive."

Although coaches often say momentum doesn't carry over from game-to-game in the playoffs, the Lightning will certainly try to continue to ride the momentum they have going on the power play. They were 3-for-6 in Game 2 and are 4-for-10 through two games in the series. They are 11-for-26 in their past seven games after going 2-for-34 in their first eight playoff games.

"When our power play is not going, don't come in and say, 'Oh my God, your power play [stinks].' It's never as bad as you think it is," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "And when it's on fire, it's really never as good as you think it is. When you're scoring, you're getting bounces. There are times when you're not scoring, and the puck is hopping over somebody's stick or for whatever reason the goalie makes a big-time save. What I like about the power play, though, we are getting zone time. We are making plays. We are putting teams on their heels."

The Rangers' power play is also heating up. It went 2-for-5 in Game 2 and has scored four times on 14 chances in the past four games after going 4-for-31 in the first 10 games of the playoffs.

However, the Rangers' focus is on staying out of the box.

They held the Washington Capitals, who had the NHL's No. 1 power play in the regular season, to one goal on the power play in the second round largely because they gave them only 15 opportunities in seven games. They've already given Tampa Bay 10 chances in two games.

"Obviously they've got a great skill level," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. "You can breakdown each of their goals and say there was a specific thing, but give them credit; they've got a lot of skill level."

The Rangers also have to find an answer for the Lightning's "Triplets" line of Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat. Johnson had the first hat trick in Tampa Bay's playoff history in Game 2 and that line has 21 of the Lightning's 41 goals in the playoffs.

Johnson leads the playoffs with 11 goals.

"[Johnson] is starting to make a name for himself in the League," Cooper said. "You have to have hockey sense, and what hockey sense is to people probably means different things. But look at all the situations he plays in. You've got to be somewhat of a smart player to be a penalty killer and play on the power play. It's not like he sits there and stands on the net front and gets pounded the whole time. He's got to make plays, and he plays when we're up a goal, down a goal."

The Rangers figure the best way to limit Johnson and his linemates is to possess the puck and get better performances from their top players.

New York forward Rick Nash has two goals in the playoffs and Martin St. Louis is still looking for his first goal. Derick Brassard and Derek Stepan have combined for 10 goals in the playoffs, but they were in the penalty box a combined four times in Game 2.

"There's no doubt that we need to raise our level here," Vigneault said.

"We've been able to do it in the past. The past doesn't necessarily dictate the future, but I've got a lot of confidence in this group that we can raise our level of play. There's no doubt that Tampa has done that and we need to do the same."


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