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Rangers want to maintain aggressive approach

by Dan Rosen /

PITTSBURGH -- The New York Rangers reward for taking a 2-1 lead in the Eastern Conference First Round series against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday was a day off Tuesday. The Rangers canceled their full team practice and instead had only a handful of players skate at Consol Energy Center.

Defenseman Kevin Klein, who hasn't played since sustaining a broken arm on March 11, was among them. Klein also was on the ice for the morning skate Monday; it was his first time practicing with the team since he got hurt.

Rangers coach Alain Vigneault had no update on Klein's condition, but he didn't rule out his return for Game 4 of the best-of-7 series on Wednesday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN360, TVA Sports 2, ROOT, MSG).

Klein has not taken part in a full contact practice yet, but the Rangers have not practiced on each of the past two off days in the series.

"I can tell you as soon as he tells me he's ready to go he's going to play," Vigneault said of Klein.

The Rangers plan to play the same way in Game 4 as they did for the first two periods in Game 3, when they built a 2-0 lead, had a 19-11 advantage in shots on goal, and a 37-25 advantage in total shot attempts.

They were more aggressive in the first 40 minutes of Game 3 than they were at any point in Game 2, a 4-3 win for the Penguins. The Rangers stifled Pittsburgh's rush game and in general controlled the play better because they controlled the puck better, particularly on their breakouts.

The Penguins either intercepted or knocked down a lot of passes coming out of the Rangers zone in Game 2.

"It's puck management," center Derek Stepan said. "I mean, I say the same thing every time and it's so important, especially against a team that is so skilled like they are. You have to make sure you get pucks in deep and you make them come 200 feet."

The Rangers not only did that, they forechecked aggressively enough to stop the Penguins from even going 100 feet. They caught Pittsburgh in slow line changes twice, including one that led to left wing Carl Hagelin's breakaway goal off a quick stretch pass from Keith Yandle.

In addition, the Rangers were able to roll their lines the way they did for the majority of the regular season, and got contributions, either on the score sheet or in other areas, from every line.

Stepan's line got a goal from Chris Kreider, and Kevin Hayes' line got a goal from Hagelin. By the end of the game, Derick Brassard's line featured eight hits and five shots on goal from Mats Zuccarello, the smallest player on the ice, and five shots and seven shot attempts from Rick Nash. New York's fourth line of Dominic Moore, Tanner Glass and Jesper Fast played in the offensive end a lot because of how good it was on the forecheck. They combined for 11 hits.

The Rangers also had their defensemen contribute with four assists, including two secondary assists from Dan Girardi. Keith Yandle set up Hagelin for his breakaway goal and Marc Staal's shot-pass off the end boards created the chance for Kreider to score from the left post.

"It was like Rangers hockey," Brassard said. "We played a solid game. I thought we played a really solid game -- like we've been doing all season long. We have to keep going. I think if we can play that way we're going to be hard to beat."

New York stopped playing that way in the third period Monday, but that was largely because of Pittsburgh's push down two goals. The Rangers didn't handle it nearly as well as they think they could have.

Pittsburgh had 13 shots on goal and 30 shot attempts to the Rangers' seven shots and 13 shot attempts.

"We might have given them room to skate in the neutral zone, and we know they can make things happen when they come with speed," Hagelin said.

That's something the Rangers know they must fix going into Game 4, particularly if they again play well at the start. They have scored the first goal in each of the first three games and have built 2-0 leads in their two wins.

"We know we can be the better team 5-on-5," Brassard said.


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