Round one of the NHL Playoffs has proven to be a back-and-forth affair for the Rangers, losing Game 1 to the Pittsburgh Penguins at Madison Square Garden in excruciating fashion in triple overtime before salvaging Game 2 and heading to Pittsburgh with the series knotted at one.
But after losing Game 3 on Saturday night, the Blueshirts now find themselves playing catch up in the series once again, just like they did for much of Game 3.
Going down 4-1 in the first period, New York did not look like the team that took the regular season series from Pittsburgh, 3-1. In fact, they didn’t look like a team at all.
“I don’t think we got to our game nearly quick enough,” said Chris Kreider after taking a long, introspective pause when asked what went wrong in that first period. “I don’t think we’re playing together. Especially at this point in the season, effort is not something you question so it’s a matter of working smart, not just hard.”
The Rangers did, to their credit, find their footing in the second period, netting three straight goals to tie the game at four and stun the sold out Pittsburgh crowd.
But a hard-fought third period resulted in three Penguins’ goals (two empty-netters) and gave Pittsburgh, who had lost seven of their last 10 home playoff games, a 7-4 lead and a 2-1 series advantage.
“I like the way our team didn’t quit,” said head coach Gerard Gallant. “I was proud of them for that and we’ll be ready to go next game.”
And it’s not that the Rangers didn’t have their chances in the third period, especially on the power play. They just couldn’t capitalize when they needed to most and those missed opportunities were the difference.
“I mean we had I think two chances in the third, so, unfortunate,” said Ryan Strome on not taking advantage of the power play. “Our power play has been good (this season), all we wanted was an opportunity and we had a chance to change the game and we couldn’t get one so it’s obviously frustrating, especially after climbing all the way back and fighting through some adversity.”
Although the comeback attempt that fell just short was a valiant effort, if the Rangers want to make it to the next round, they can’t afford to go down like that again.
They have to start "working smart, not just hard."
“There have been moments over the course of the year that we’ve put ourselves in positions like that and been able to claw back, but that’s not something you can do in the playoffs so it’s something we got to rectify and rectify quickly,” Kreider said.
So expect the Blueshirts to regroup and make the necessary corrections for Game 4, because if they don’t they might not get another opportunity.
“In a series, you have to adjust and they made good adjustments tonight,” Strome said. “So we gotta go adjust, too, and be ready for Game 4 and the power play and five on five as well.”