OTTAWA - The talk heading into the Rangers second round matchup with the Ottawa Senators was breaking through coach Guy Boucher's neutral zone trap.
Despite the 2-1 loss in Game 1 Thursday night, the Rangers felt they did a good job of getting through the numbers at mid ice, but must do a better job at generating offense once inside the offensive zone.
"I thought for the majority of the game, long spurts there, we did good things getting through there with some speed and that allowed us to get some sort of forecheck going," captain Ryan McDonagh said following the team's short practice at Canadian Tire Centre. "It's the nature of the game. We're going to create turnovers in the neutral zone with our structure, and so are they at times. It's about minimizing those chances and minimizing those turnovers that's going to really help us spend more time in the o-zone."
The Rangers were not short on scoring chances Thursday night. Michael Grabner had two Grade-A looks in the first period but hit the post on one and missed the net on a breakaway on the other. The speedy winger also nearly converted on a 2-on-1 in the middle frame but was stopped by Craig Anderson.
Add in two posts in the third period by Kevin Hayes and J.T. Miller when the game was still tied proves the opportunities were there.
The problem, though, came on second-chance opportunities. Several Rangers, including Derek Stepan following Game 1, said the team had to do a better job of getting traffic in on Anderson.
On Friday, Mika Zibanejad said the team must stop passing up shots in favor the pass.
"I think it's more pucks. I think we had a few opportunities that we kind of passed up and we didn't shoot," he said. "I think that's a mentality we have to come back to. We have to kind of approach Anderson like we did with [Carey] Price as well. There's a few different things they do differently, obviously, but mainly it's just getting in front of him and making it hard for him to see the puck and just go from there."
Head coach Alain Vigneault stated last night and again Friday morning that he was mostly pleased with his team's play at five-on-five. Unfortunately, New York took four minor penalties, with Ottawa converting on the final call in the second period that tied the game.
While New York was able to cash in on one of their four power plays, Vigneault said Ottawa's special teams were more effective because the Senators generated more momentum from them.
"I thought five-on-five, I liked a lot of the things that we did," Vigneault said Friday. "In my mind, they won the specialty teams battle. They got some Grade-A looks on their power play and they got a couple of chances on ours. That's definitely an area that we're addressing with our group that we need to be better."
Across the board, Vigneault said many players throughout the lineup need to elevate their game beginning Saturday afternoon.
"I think there's a lot of players on our group right now after last night's game that have to be better," Vigneault lamented. "For our intentions - and our intensions are to win - then you've got to play better than we did last night. Whether it be five-on-five, or on the power play or the penalty kill, there's some areas, there's some reads and execution that quite a few of our players … as a group need to be better."