NEW YORK -- New York Rangers coach Alain Vigneault made no secret that he expects his best players to improve in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference Second Round series against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
In their 3-0 loss in Game 2 on Sunday, New York's top players appeared to be a step behind Pittsburgh's stars much of the night. The top defensive pair of Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh was on the ice for Kris Letang's second-period game-winner, a pass that caromed off Girardi's stick and past goaltender Henrik Lundqvist.
Vigneault expects a better performance from his top pair, as well as the second defensive pair of Marc Staal and Anton Stralman.
"I would say both our D pairs that are playing against their top line had a tough night last night. I'm expecting both those pairs to rebound tonight," Vigneault said hours before Game 3 at MSG (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS). "I don't want to take anything away from Pittsburgh. They came at us with everything they had. Their top players played like elite players. But I know our guys can play better and they need to play better tonight."
That group of players Vigneault expects to improve includes his top forward line of Rick Nash, Martin St. Louis and Derek Stepan. New York's top trio doesn't have a point in the series, and Nash has gone goalless in the playoffs and is without a point in six straight games after leading the Rangers during the regular season with 26 goals.
The lack of production from the Rangers' top line has been magnified by the strong play from Pittsburgh's star trio of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Chris Kunitz. Pittsburgh has outshot New York 71-49 in the series, and their elite playmakers have dictated the pace through two games.
"Their big boys put on their big-boy pants," Vigneault said. "I need mine to do that."
Vigneault did not reveal any details regarding his lineup but the expectation is that he will have the same group on the ice for Game 3.
Here are the projected lineups for Game 3:
Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - Lee Stempniak
Jussi Jokinen - Evgeni Malkin - James Neal
Beau Bennett - Brandon Sutter - Joe Vitale
Brian Gibbons - Marcel Goc - Craig Adams
Paul Martin - Kris Letang
Olli Maatta - Matt Niskanen
Rob Scuderi - Robert Bortuzzo
Scratched: Jayson Megna, Taylor Pyatt, Tanner Glass, Deryk Engelland, Chris Conner
Injured: Brooks Orpik (undisclosed), Pascal Dupuis (knee), Tomas Vokoun (pelvis)
Rick Nash - Derek Stepan - Martin St. Louis
Benoit Pouliot - Derick Brassard - Mats Zuccarello
Carl Hagelin - Brad Richards - Daniel Carcillo
Brian Boyle - Dominic Moore - Jesper Fast
Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi
Marc Staal - Anton Stralman
Raphael Diaz - Kevin Klein
Scratched: Derek Dorsett, Ryan Haggerty, J.T. Miller, John Moore, Justin Falk
Injured: Chris Kreider (hand)