The Rangers’ mantra for the next two games is simple: Be better than they were Sunday afternoon.
“At this time of year, you can’t play OK,” head coach Alain Vigneault said after Monday’s practice. “You have to play better, and that’s what we need to do.”
In this case, it is an issue of creating traffic in front of goaltender Ray Emery. After jumping out to a 2-0 lead in the first 8:22 Sunday, the Rangers were essentially limited to perimeter shots for the remainder of the game.
“Give them credit: They did a good job of clogging up the neutral zone and shutting us down. We didn’t get a lot in the third,” Vigneault said. “Have any of our goals so far been because he hasn’t seen the shot or because we’ve moved [the puck] pretty quick and he hasn’t been able to get to it? I think there’s a combination of both.”
Without Chris Kreider, whose size and speed could have created shooting lanes and a presence in front of Emery, the offensive philosophy becomes one of generating zone time and offensive chances through puck possession and rebounds.
"There are a couple different things [a team can do to loosen a defense]," Derek Dorsett said, before noting the Rangers will have to test the end boards during Tuesday's morning skate in an attempt to see how they play. "Shoot wide of the net, shoot for sticks, get pucks deep and work them down low and hopefully things will open up up top for the 'D' men. We just have to make sure that we're getting it to the net, getting bodies to the net for second and third opportunities."
Should the Rangers get those opportunities, they will come against Emery. Starter Steve Mason will not play as he recuperates from an undisclosed injury. Mason participated in the Flyers' optional skate Monday, but told reporters in Philadelphia Emery's play so far in the series has made it easier for him to "target" Friday's Game 4 as a potential return date.
"He's played well," Brad Richards said of Emery. "We said it. I don't know if everybody believed it, if you guys believed it or whatever. We thought either goalie was very capable. Like I said the other day, one guy catches the other way. Really that's about [the difference between the two]. Emery fights. He's been to a Stanley Cup Final. He played well on a team last year that won, so he's a very capable goalie, so it's not going to change. We have to keep pounding pucks and get more traffic."
Follow Rangers beat writer Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman.