NEW YORK – Alain Vigneault watched his New York Rangers lose 2-0 to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday night, falling into a 2-1 series hole after being shut out for a second straight game.
“Happy” wouldn’t be at the forefront of his anticipated evaluations of their play, but “happy” was the word from the coach – considering the circumstances.
“Happy with our whole team tonight,” said Vigneault. “We played a real strong game. We were forced to play a stupid schedule, five games in seven nights, and I’m proud of how our team handled it.”
Granted, a win in Game 6 vs. the Philadelphia Flyers makes the Rangers’ schedule a lot less stupid, but otherwise they were at the mercy of Madison Square Garden, a WNBA game and a Billy Joel concert, which forced the condensed schedule.
The Rangers weren’t using it as an excuse for their second straight blanking at the hands of Marc-Andre Fleury, but to a man they expressed the need to use their off-day to “reload” for Game 4.
“We played a lot of hockey lately,” said winger Marty St. Louis. “We’re going to come up for air, regroup a little bit and be ready for Game 4.”
“Let’s not overthink this,” said goalie Henrik Lundqvist, who was victimized on a pair of breakaway goals in the loss. “Take a day here tomorrow to reload, and get ready for a very big game.”
Part of that preparation: Solving the Rangers’ power play problems, as they're now in an 0-for-34 slide; and, in turn, figuring out how to beat Fleury for the first time in 120 minutes.
Did the Rangers get enough traffic in front of Fleury?
“Bodies in front? Probably not. Obviously not,” said Brad Richards. “We have to keep working on that. Fired a lot more at him, but they blocked a lot of shots. We’re going to have to get tips, shoot wide, do some different things to get to him.”
As for the power play … well, it resembled one at times, which is a good sign. But it failed to click with a 6-on-4 chance late in the third – with Lundqvist pulled – and two kills by the Penguins led to two breakaway goals.
“We had the puck a lot more in their zone and more possession,” said defenseman Ryan McDonagh, on the basic tenets of what to expect on a power play. “We should feel good because we had a lot of good looks. It’s just a matter of crashing the net and making it hard on him as much as we can.”
Changing tactics, fixing problems, refocusing the offense.
In other words, taking a breather to be ready for Game 4 on Wednesday night at MSG.
“We did a lot of good things here,” said McDonagh. “We just have to regroup. We had a lot of hockey in the last few days.”
Stupid no good lousy schedule …