Rangers facing two-game deficit for second straight series
The facts paint a bleak picture for the Rangers.
For the second straight series, they return to the Garden in a 0-2 hole. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, there has not been a team in NHL history that has won consecutive Stanley Cup playoff series after spotting opponents the first two games as the Rangers have against the Capitals and the Bruins.
The Rangers have been outscored 8-4 in the first two games of the Eastern Conference semifinals. Only three players — Brian Boyle, Carl Hagelin and Anton Stralman — have a positive rating after the first two games of the series. The power play is 0-for-8 in the first two games and 2-for-36 in the playoffs.
And their Vezina-finalist goaltender appeared to injure his shoulder in the final moments of Sunday afternoon’s 5-2 loss in Game 2.
With all of that said, head coach John Tortorella painted a much different picture.
“I thought we played a much better game in the second game,” Tortorella told reporters after the Rangers’ practice in Greenburgh, N.Y. on Monday in preparation for Tuesday’s Game 3. “I’m very optimistic as far as where we’re going as a team.”
Tuesday’s game is at the Garden, where the Rangers are 3-0 in these playoffs and have outscored opponents 9-6 in those games. The Rangers finished the regular season with a 16-6-2 mark at the Garden compared to a maudlin 10-12-2 road record.
The biggest reason for Tortorella’s confidence is a Henrik Lundqvist, who appears likely to play in Game 3. Lundqvist, the reigning Vezina winner, tweaked his arm in the third period of Sunday’s loss while making a diving save.
“I landed on it awkwardly and it hurt a little bit but it’s under control,” Lundqvist said. “Everybody is sore. It’s the playoffs. You can’t sit out because it’s hurting a little bit. It happens. You have to do the right things to keep it going.”
In order to extend their season past the next two games, the Rangers will have to be decidedly better defensively than they were in the first two games, in which the Bruins attempted 143 shots towards Lundqvist.
To that end, it appears as if the customary top defensive pairing of Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi will be reunited. According to reports, the two skated together during Monday’s practice session.
Split up prior to Game 1 in order to have a strong defender on the ice against Boston’s top two lines, the two logged their accustomed ice time while partnered with Anton Stralman and Michael Del Zotto, respectively. McDonagh finished with a goal in Game 1 in 55:55 of ice time in the series, while Girardi is minus-4 with an assist in 51:34 spanning the first two games.
Girardi was on the ice for four of Boston’s goals in Game 2, including Brad Marchand’s top-of-the-crease tap-in 26 seconds into the third period which gave the Bruins an insurmountable, 4-2, lead.
“We can defend,” Tortorella said. “It surprises me that we made some mistakes that we very rarely do on simple coverages. The third and fourth goal, they’re simple coverages and we beat ourselves.”
Follow Rangers beat writer Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman.