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Rangers take third shot this spring at 2-0 series lead

by Dave Lozo

NEW YORK -- Ruslan Fedotenko sat at his locker after the New York Rangers' optional practice, drinking from a bottle of water as he was asked what it meant for the team to grab a 2-0 lead in a series for once.

During the first two rounds of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Rangers won Game 1 only to lose Game 2. They grabbed a 1-0 series lead in the Eastern Conference Finals by beating the New Jersey Devils 3-0 on Monday night, so it was a hot topic Tuesday afternoon at Madison Square Garden.

Fedotenko, without breaking his lips from the bottle, showed what it meant to himself to grab a 2-0 lead on the Devils with a win in Game 2 on Wednesday night by holding up his left hand and making a circle with his thumb and pointer finger.



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New Jersey has proven adept at coming back in these playoffs, spotting Florida 2-1 and 3-2 series leads and dropping the opener against Philadelphia before advancing each time.

"It doesn't matter. You can lose the next four after," Fedotenko said. "It's a team that gets four wins faster than the other team, wins the series. I mean, do we want to have 2-0 instead of 1-1? Absolutely. That means we're closer to the four wins. But does it matter if we have 2-0 and does it mean we're going to win the series? Absolutely not."

Statistically speaking, a team that holds a 2-0 lead in a best-of-seven series has won 86 percent of the time. A team that grabs that edge in conference finals has won 91 percent of the time.

Still, the importance of taking a 2-0 lead wasn't the focal point when the Rangers held an afternoon meeting before their practice.

"We're not even looking at it that way," Rangers coach John Tortorella said. "It's another game in the series. We're just trying to be better each game."

Defenseman Ryan McDonagh, however, said the notion of getting their first two-game lead of the playoffs was on the minds of the players.

"We talked about it today in our meeting," McDonagh said. "We don't play a great (Game 1), but we find a way to win in the third period there. We got through some of their surges. When you win the game and start the series 1-0, you really want to try to get a hold of the series with the next game. It's a huge opportunity. We haven't done it before and it's made it a tougher road. It would be nice to, in a sense, make a stand on home ice and make that last win mean that much more."

The last time the Rangers held a 2-0 lead in a series was in 2009 in the conference quarterfinals against the Washington Capitals, who rallied from a 3-1 series deficit to win in seven games. The Devils have overcome a 2-0 series hole only once in their history, rallying to beat the Bruins in six games in the conference semifinals in 1994.

Dan Girardi said it's not so much about getting a two-game lead in a series; it's about the Rangers playing better than they did during the first two periods of Game 1, when the Devils' forecheck gave them problems.

"Yeah, the last couple of series it's been win one, lose one," Girardi said. "Especially at this stage, try to get a 2-0 lead and build it up from there. I think we're going to have to have a better first two periods for us to be successful tomorrow night, and it starts with a hard start and making sure you're not turning pucks over and making sure we're playing into their hash marks."

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo

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