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Rangers Look to Solve Penguins' Neutral Zone Coverage

by Matthew Calamia / New York Rangers

Derek Stepan didn't mince words Tuesday when asked about what went wrong in the third period of the Rangers' 3-1 loss to Pittsburgh in Game 3.

"We did a terrible job of getting through the neutral zone," Stepan said. "That exactly is why we didn't get a single look the whole third period, because we did such a poor job coming through the neutral zone."

That sentiment was still on the minds of the Rangers following the team's optional practice at Madison Square Garden Wednesday, a day before the series resumes Thursday night.

New York had just four shots in the third period, and just two after Matt Cullen's go ahead goal 4:16 into the third period. The Rangers had trouble gaining the Penguins blueline or sustain much pressure on Pittsburgh's defense and rookie goaltender Matt Murray.

"We just have to make plays," Derick Brassard said Wednesday. "We did it all season long. Last night was one of those games that nothing was clicking. We just have to make sure tomorrow we're ready to play and ready to play the same way we did all year long."

Brassard said a lot of the Rangers' energy was spent trying to forecheck, but with little results, which must lead to changes in approach Thursday night when the Blueshirts try and even the series.

"Tomorrow we have to have better dumps and make it hard on them," Brassard said. "If we have the space to make plays we're going to have to make plays. They did a pretty good job defending. It's our jobs as forwards to try and find some holes in their game and try and get on the inside."

What went wrong though? Was it something Pittsburgh did or something the Rangers did not do that led New York to finish the night with just 17 shots on goal?

Head coach Alain Vigneault said it was more about a lack of execution than anything.

"It had a lot more to do with execution and making plays with the puck," Vigneault said. "We know what to expect from Pittsburgh as far as their play in the neutral zone and the type of forechecking they're deploying at this time. We know what works to counter against that. We have to go out and make the plays and execute, and our execution wasn't good enough yesterday."

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