The New York Rangers return to Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night for Game 3 of their Eastern Conference semifinal matchup against the Ottawa Senators and they are already on the brink:
Puck drop: 7 p.m.
TV: NBC Sports Network
Radio: 98.7 ESPN Radio
Saturday night brought about a crushing 6-5 double-overtime loss in which the Rangers had three two-goal leads slip away.
They were up 5-3 with 3:29 to go before Jean-Gabriel Pageau picked up his second and third goals of the afternoon to tie things up and force overtime.
Pageau might have had just 12 goals during the regular season, but he might as well have been Mike Bossy on Saturday, tallying his fourth goal of the game in double overtime to lift Ottawa to a 2-0 series advantage.
One of New York’s goal scorers in Game 2, Derek Stepan, isn’t trying to look back at what transpired in Ottawa.
“I think we played some real strong hockey in the first two games,” Stepan said. “There’s nothing we can do about Games 1 and 2, just focus on 3.”
It was the fourth time under head coach Alain Vigneault that the Rangers blew a two-goal lead and lost a playoff game in overtime. Two of them came in Games 1 and 2 of the 2014 Stanley Cup Final against the Los Angeles Kings.
The other was in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final against the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Rangers went on to lose each of those series.
This tough start has made it difficult for Vigneault to hammer down a lineup ahead of Game 3.
“We have a couple things right now that I’m contemplating,” Vigneault admitted on Monday. “I think every game is different. There’s no doubt that the second game in Ottawa was different than the first game. But you have to expect the same components.”
For the first time this postseason, Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist looked vulnerable as he made just 28 saves on 34 shots.
New York outshot Ottawa 48-34 in Game 2, but Senators goalie Craig Anderson has outdueled “The King” so far. In two games, he has stopped 77 of 83 shots for a .927 save percentage.
Lundqvist’s save percentage is slumping at .896 so far this series, but he’s not letting it get to him.
“All you can do right now is just prepare,” he said on Monday. “We did a lot of good things up in Ottawa, just didn’t get the results we wanted … hopefully, we find a way to get the first one here at home.”
There was no question that the loss stung, but the Rangers received a small gift in getting two days of rest compared to one between Games 2 and 3.
“I think that extra day [off] is huge,” Stepan said. “It was an emotional loss and we move on from it and we get ourselves ready for Game 3. We really don’t have much of a choice at this point.”
Now it will be up to them to actually take advantage of it.