PITTSBURGH – The New York Rangers will attempt to raise their level of desperation in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference First Round series against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Consol Energy Center on Monday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports, MSG, ROOT).
The best-of-7 series is tied 1-1 after the Rangers lost 4-3 in Game 2 at Madison Square Garden on Saturday. While Pittsburgh's competiveness seemed to elevate from its 2-1 loss in Game 1 on Thursday, the Rangers felt they did not match the Penguins’ elevated game and feel they need to in order to reclaim home-ice advantage.
"I think [the Penguins] probably had it consistently throughout the game," Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh said. "They were a lot quicker on their sticks, moving their feet on loose pucks, it translated to them having the puck more. As we said after the game, you could see we spent some more time in our zone than we'd like to. We didn't get to the offensive zone as much as we'd like to. So, it's something we have to get back to.
"Moving our feet a little bit and getting a hold of a puck first, before we start anticipating our next play."
New York will look to match Pittsburgh’s intensity in Game 3.
Defenseman Dan Boyle was frustrated with the Rangers' inability to match the Penguins’ compete level on Saturday. If they are to win at least one of the next two games in Pittsburgh, he thinks they must raise their tenacity in a similar fashion.
"Their [compete level] was improved from Game 1 to Game 2," Boyle said. "And I don't know if we stayed at the same level, but ours probably needs to improve also. So, that's what I think about that … Anytime you lose, certainly we set out to win every game possible. If it was up to us, we'd be 16-0, but we all know that's almost impossible, so you take the good with the bad. We certainly weren't thrilled. It wasn't our best game.
"But you turn the page and you lace them up tomorrow night and go after it again."
Pittsburgh has swarmed New York goalie Henrik Lundqvist early in the series, leading to a bulk of its scoring chances. The Rangers haven’t been as successful crowding around Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury.
New York forward Chris Kreider said turnovers have been a glaring issue against Pittsburgh and if the Rangers want to break the Penguins’ stronghold around their crease and possibly create one of their own in the opposing zone, they need to rely on clean plays through the neutral zone.
"Early on, especially in last night's game, there weren't a lot of shots either way," Kreider said. "There wasn't a lot of traffic for either team. Then we had trouble getting pucks in deep and then they're coming and they're coming and we're turning pucks over and they're counterattacking, they're eventually going to get bodies in the paint. It's a little harder.
"For us, it's getting through the neutral zone, generating a forecheck and getting set up in their defensive end."
Rangers coach Alain Vigneault did not announce any lineup changes Sunday. Defenseman Kevin Klein (broken left forearm) traveled to Pittsburgh, but will not play in Game 3, Vigneault said.
Vigneault thought New York could have played better through the first two games of the series, but was not overly critical. He expects the Rangers’ effort to improve as the series moves along, but gave credit to the Penguins for causing the Rangers frustration, primarily when New York was outscored 3-0 in the second period Saturday.
"I don't think we're going to win all the footraces and all the battles against that team," Vigneault said. "I mean, they have some pretty good players over there, so there's going to be some 50-50 pucks that we're going to get to. There's going to be some 50-50 pucks that they're going to get to. Do I think as a team we need to play better? There's no doubt. It's been very hard-fought so far.
"Execution at some points has been good. At other points, give them credit. They have some top-end players that are playing real well."