Tuesday night’s Game 4 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinal was as much of a must-win situation as the Rangers could have been in without facing elimination.
Down 2-1 in the series, New York was in the midst of a six-game home playoff losing streak dating back to the 2015 Eastern Conference Finals against the Tampa Bay Lightning. That streak is no more thanks to a 2-1 win on Tuesday from Madison Square Garden after Rick Nash’s second-period tally turned out to be the game-winning goal.
Any victory in the postseason is a big one, but there was a feeling of added relief in the Rangers’ locker room after Game 4.
“It was our best home game for sure,” Nash said. “It was a tough couple days after Game 3 and we knew we had to come with a good effort.”
That Game 3 on Easter Sunday saw the Rangers dominated on their home ice in a 3-1 loss. An uninspired effort saw them record just 21 shots and provided little support for goaltender Henrik Lundqvist.
Tuesday was a whole different story as New York was aggressive from the opening draw and continued to stay on the attack all night.
For the first time this series, they outshot the Canadiens 32-24 as Montreal netminder Carey Price was the busier goalie for a change.
“We needed this for so many reasons,” Lundqvist, who made 23 saves, said. “We’ve been really disappointed with the way things have been going at home for the last two years here in the playoffs.”
Entering Tuesday night, the Rangers had been outscored 21-4 in their last six home playoff games at Madison Square Garden where Lundqvist was bombarded, albeit not at his best with an .873 save percentage.
He’s been a stalwart in goals this postseason though, wielding a 1.89 goals against average and .944 save percentage through the first four games of the series.
It’s given a struggling offense, which still isn’t firing on all cylinders yet, a chance to win these games.
Two goals aren’t exactly lighting up the score sheet, but New York’s effort was the best it has been all series.
“After Game 2, I talked about how we sat back too much,” center Derek Stepan said. “I thought we were on our toes in the third period [in Game 4] and it allowed us to stay tight to them and not let them come flying through. They did get some looks, but we managed to get the job done.”
The victory ensures that the Rangers will get at least one more game at home this postseason, much to the delight of Stepan.
“Yeah [it’s a relief],” he said. “We got a winning streak at home now.”