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Rangers Special Teams Loom Large in Series Against Senators

by Matt Calamia @MattCalamia /

OTTAWA -- The Rangers scored just one power play goal in their six-game victory over the Montreal Canadiens in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but it was a big one.

Mats Zuccarello's tally with the man advantage in Game 6 evened the score with the Habs before No. 36's second put the Blueshirts ahead for good.

Now, New York is hoping to carry over that success into their series against the Senators, which begins Thursday night in Ottawa.

"[The] power play is such a big deal," said Rick Nash, who was back practice after he was given a maintenance day on Tuesday. "Special teams in general, not only in season but more in the playoffs. It showed for Montreal in Game 3. It showed for us in Game 6. We've got to find that momentum and keep it going."

A power play can change the momentum of a playoff series in an instant, even if it doesn't score. J.T. Miller stated throughout the Montreal series that even if the Rangers weren't scoring on their chances, it was critical get a boost from it with pressure and chances.

Miller said despite just one goal in 15 chances over the six games against Montreal, he felt the Rangers did a good job of generating scoring chances with the man advantage as the series progressed before Zuccarello's conversion in the final game.

"We definitely had some looks where we could have scored early on in the series, but in a big moment, our team stepped up on the power play and got it done," Miller told on Wednesday. "That's definitely a positive I think we can look forward to. I think we're excited to get another crack at it."

The power play could loom large in this upcoming series against the Senators, who are stingy defensively and have great success clogging the neutral zone. 

The Rangers, though, are a team built on speed, and Miller said that speed could lead to power play chances.

"I think we know we need to get it in their zone to get the power play looks," Miller said. "If you come with speed, maybe they'll take some hooking penalties to try and slow us down. We have to come with speed and get the puck back. If they have the puck all game, it's going to be tough for them to take penalties."

On the flip side of the power play, the Rangers' penalty kill must continue to be a strength of the squad against a Senators team that scored five goals in 23 chances (21.7 percent) in its six-game victory over Boston in Round 1

The Rangers allowed three goals in 20 shorthanded opportunities for a success rate of 85 percent, which is fifth in the postseason, and the best among any team to advance to the second round.

"That was certainly that was a big reason they were able to beat Boston," Ryan McDonagh said of Ottawa's power play on Wednesday. "They scored some big goals at different points in the series. Certainly you want to be disciplined too and not give them a lot of opportunities."

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