The Rangers have been here before and somehow found a way to persevere and stay alive. Twice in fact.
Down three games to one in a best-of-seven playoff series against a confident and skilled opponent, the Rangers twice in the past two springs have rallied back, stared down playoff elimination again, again, and again before advancing to the next round.
First they did it against the Pittsburgh Penguins--against whom they currently trail 3-1 in this opening-round series after Thursday's 5-0 loss in Game Four at Madison Square Garden. In the second round in 2014 the Rangers trailed the Penguins 3-1 after back to back losses on home ice only to win Game Five in Pittsburgh 5-1, follow with a 3-1 victory at MSG in Game Six, and finished things off with a 2-1 road win in Game Seven.
Last year against the Washington Capitals in the second round the Rangers rallied from 3-1 down with a pair of 2-1 overtime wins in Games Five and Seven at The Garden sandwiching a 4-3 road victory in Game Six.
"You can't think because you've done it in the past you will necessarily do it (this year)," stated Alain Vigneault, the head coach of both of those Rangers teams that rallied from a 3-1 series deficit. "But you can believe a little bit. We've been there and have been in those situations; and I think what made it possible was that narrow focus of staying in the moment. That's what we are going to preach."
Chris Kreider played on both of those Rangers teams that rallied back in dramatic fashion against both Pittsburgh and Washington. Friday he calmly said, "We know what it takes."
The Rangers will need to be much better on special teams in order to have any chance to win Saturday and earn the chance to come home to host Game Six next Monday. They will also need Henrik Lundqvist--the catalyst of both stirring come-from-behind series wins the previous two post-seasons--to be at his absolute best in goal. And the Rangers will have to generate more offense against rookie goaltender Matt Murray, who has allowed only one goal in winning his first two career playoff starts in Games Three and Four.
There is another extremely important factor, according to the team's leading scorer during the regular season, Mats Zuccarello.
"We have to believe it's going to happen," Zuccarello stated after practice on Friday. "We are a confident group, but we have to play hard for each other, support each other, and believe in each other to turn this around."
The team held a typically uptempo practice on Friday before traveling to Pittsburgh for their Game Five matinee on Saturday. There were plenty of moving parts as Vigneault juggled combinations of players--saying afterwards that he is "still in the process of finalizing the lineup" and that he will "play the guys I think can make us win".
"We know we can do it," stated defenseman Keith Yandle. "It's not going to be handed to us, we're going to have to earn it. It's great to look around our locker room today and see everyone excited for tomorrow. It's a good feeling."