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Experienced Rangers Keeping Focus on Game 4

by Matt Calamia @MattCalamia /

It's often said that experience in playoff hockey is important if you have it and meaningless if you don't.

But the Rangers' wealth of experience - namely as a group - is certainly beneficial for the club as it looks to even their best-of-seven series tonight in Game 4 against the Montreal Canadiens.

Six Rangers in tonight's lineup have appeared in three Eastern Conference Finals and a Stanley Cup Final since 2012, with another three with playing in two Conference Finals and a Stanley Cup Final. The Rangers have an additional four players who appeared in the 2015 Conference Final against Tampa Bay.

Long story short, the Rangers have been in this position before.

"That's the biggest thing right now is there can't be any panic," said Derek Stepan, who has appeared in every playoff series for the Rangers since 2011. "It's a 2-1 series and if we win one it's 2-2, now it's a three-game series. It's as simple as focusing and keeping it just on Game 4. Let's just focus on that. We can't run ourselves into panic or run ourselves into trouble."

Being down a game in a series isn't anything new for the Blueshirts. They trailed Ottawa 2012 and followed it up by overcoming a 2-0 and 3-2 series holes against the Capitals the following season.

The Rangers famously overcame 3-1 holes in 2014 against Pittsburgh and again against Washington in 2015.

"It should," captain Ryan McDonagh said when asked if experience could aid the Blueshirts, who have dropped two straight after taking Game 1 in Montreal. "Heckuva lot of guys have played a lot of playoff games and it's not always going to be a perfect game every night. The other night was a frustrating one for us. We want to have a bounce back game." 

Beginning with Game 5 of that 2015 comeback win over the Capitals, the Rangers are 5-2 in their last seven playoff contests when trailing in a series. Game 4 itself has also been a positive one for New York, as the Rangers have been victorious in four of their last six Game 4s since facing these same Canadiens in the 2014 Conference Finals.

"We've got to go out there and play with some intensity and obviously some desperation, but at the same time just relax a little bit and play our game," said Marc Staal, a veteran of 95 playoff games with the Rangers. "Go out there and compete and try to win a game."

The message from coach Alain Vigneault was a simple one after the team's morning skate.

"There's no doubt that experience is a good thing to have," he said. "Tonight our guys know you've got to breathe, got to go out and got to play, and that's what we're going to do."

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