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Rangers power play finds its rhythm against Lightning

by Dan Rosen / NHL.com

TAMPA -- Keith Yandle said the New York Rangers are scoring goals on the power play because they're keeping it simple. Dan Boyle said the only difference is the puck is going into the net now, when earlier in the Stanley Cup Playoffs it wasn't.

With all due respect, the Rangers defensemen are being too vague and far too humble in describing a power play that has needed five shots to score four goals in the past two games and has connected twice in each of the past three games in the Eastern Conference Final against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The Rangers were 6-for-38 on the power play in the first two rounds; they're 6-for-15 against the Lightning, including 2-for-4 in a 5-1 win in Game 4 on Friday at Amalie Arena, and 6-for-13 in the past three games.

The best-of-7 series is tied at 2-2 with Game 5 at Madison Square Garden on Sunday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).

"We're making plays," said right wing Martin St. Louis, who broke out of his 18-game scoring drought with a power-play goal in Game 4. "Special teams are always big at this time of the year and it's nice to get our power play rolling."

It's rolling because the Rangers have been as sharp with their puck movement as they have been efficient with their shot.

Earlier in the playoffs, the Rangers appeared hesitant and pass-happy on the power play; now they are zipping the puck around, finding the open man, and letting it rip.

In Game 4, St. Louis scored on a one-timer from the right circle off a seam pass from Derick Brassard. New York's two power-play goals in Game 3 came off of hard shots from the circles. Ryan McDonagh beat Lightning goalie Ben Bishop on a one-timer from the right circle off of a smart rotation and diagonal seam pass from Kevin Hayes. Brassard found room in the left circle and beat Bishop with a slap shot 62 seconds into the game.

"It's a shoot-first mentality," said former NHL assistant coach Dave Farrish, who is an analyst for NHL.com in the Eastern Conference Final. "You can tell some games when teams look hesitant to shoot. They overhandle the puck and they hesitate. But when you have a shoot-first mentality, everybody on the ice knows if they have a clear lane to the net and some traffic in front they're going to try to shoot the puck, not make cute plays. I think they have that shoot-first mentality now, and that's the biggest reason why they've had success. The first couple of series I thought they were hesitant, looking for a prettier play or maybe a better opportunity. Once you develop that shoot-first mentality, I think people find out that's usually the best recipe for success."

The puck movement the Rangers have had on the power play has been important. They're making the Lightning penalty killers go side to side and Bishop go from post to post. The movement is opening up shooting lanes and the Rangers are finding them.

"On the power play you have to move the puck," St. Louis said. "You've got to make your reads. Somebody is open and you have to force them to be uncomfortable. Puck retrieval, winning draws, there are so many things on the power play. It's five guys, but we all read off one another. If one guy is off his reads, it messes it all up. If your power play is humming, you have five guys doing what they're supposed to do."

A big reason for the power play success is how involved the Rangers are getting the point players, whether it's Boyle and Brassard on the first unit or McDonagh and Yandle on the second.

Brassard came down into the circle to score in Game 3. Boyle and Yandle had assists on the power-play goals in Game 4. McDonagh scored, and Boyle and Yandle had assists on the goals in Game 3. Boyle had assists on each of the power-play goals in Game 2.

"It's all about doing simple things, keeping within your system," Yandle said. "Right now we're doing a good job."

That they are also serves as a scare tactic against the Lightning. Now instead of just playing the game and trying to be on the line between fair and foul, the Lightning have to have a stronger focus on not taking penalties, which in turn takes them out of their comfort zone.

"You have to worry," Farrish said. "You can't just spot a team power plays like that. It's a difference in the hockey game."

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