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Candid Rangers erasing memory of tough Game 2 loss

It's full speed ahead for the Rangers after a Game 3 win began to ease the pain from their double OT loss on Saturday.
The Rangers salute the crowd after their 4-1 win in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Senators. (Getty Images)
Tuesday night could be the final night of the Rangers' season if they can't pull out a win in Game 6 against the Senators. (Photo: Getty Images)

Time heals all wounds.

We’ve heard that plenty of times whether it be a bad breakup, a loss of someone close or, on a more trivial level, when one’s favorite sports team loses in heartbreaking fashion.

For the New York Rangers, that moment came in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference semifinal matchup against the Ottawa Senators on Saturday night.

Holding three separate two-goal leads, the Rangers blew each and every one of them, including a 5-3 advantage with 3:29 left in the game. It would go into double overtime where Jean-Gabriel Pageau scored his fourth goal of the night to give the Senators a 2-0 series lead.

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It was a tough pill for New York to swallow, but Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault remained as cool as ever, shrugging off the events and claiming “that’s part of hockey.”

With Game 3 being played on Tuesday night, the Rangers had a rare extra day to not only prepare to halve their series deficit, but to stew on the loss.

It must have done them good because they put together one of their most complete performances of the postseason, trouncing Ottawa 4-1 in front of the Madison Square Garden crowd.

New York had four different scorers from four different lines on the night while goalie Henrik Lundqvist made 26 of 27 saves.

But Game 2 was still fresh in their minds.

“It was an emotional loss. You never want to lose a game, especially one that’s in double overtime, but our group was confident in sticking with our messages,” center Derek Stepan said after the game. “It’s a race to four. We knew that tonight we had to come out with a good start and we had to play 60 minutes strong and I thought, for the most part, we were real solid.”

The Rangers managed to find a way past Senators goalie Craig Anderson twice in the first period to get that good start.

Looking like a desperate team with their backs against the wall, New York’s jump was just too much for Ottawa to handle as the host’s speed and grit continued to create scoring chances.

It also took plenty of pressure off Lundqvist, who faced just five shots in that first period while watching most of the game’s early action from 200 feet away.

“The day after we went home from Ottawa, it was a tough day. I think we felt like we played well enough to at least get one win,” Lundqvist said. “I think everybody understood the importance of this one and we came out in the first period and set the tone. There is no question, I think, that we were the better team tonight. We played with speed, emotion, and determination. And we got it done, and it was great to see.”

The effort proved a lot to winger Rick Nash, who scored New York’s third goal of the night during the second period off an assist from Stepan.

“It says that we can erase an emotional loss,” Nash said. “It was a goal to put it behind us and move on, and we did that.”

The Rangers and Senators get just one day of rest before Game 4 at MSG on Thursday night and Lundqvist isn’t expecting a repeat of Tuesday.

“It’s going to be, I think, a more challenging game,” Lundqvist said. “They’re going to be more desperate this time and we’ll have to match it.”

For Mika Zibanejad, who was everywhere on the ice in Game 3 and tallied an assist, there’s nothing to get excited about.

“We won one game,” he said. “We have to win another one.”

That’s a simple equation for a convoluted, grueling goal. But the Rangers look to have momentum back on their side heading into Game 4 as they attempt to do something not many teams in NHL history have managed to pull off.

Teams that have fallen behind 2-0 in a best-of-seven series have come back to win just 48 of 357 times.

It’s all just talk for Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh, though.

“We have to make sure that we come ready to play … It’s going to be another tough challenge,” he said. “We understand the situation that we’re in.”

 
 
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