It's no wonder that in order to take their place among the truly special teams, the Rangers will have to find and keep their groove with special teams. It was there in Game 4, but the Friday night performance that was cause for optimism Sunday morning gave way to ineffectiveness and frustration Sunday night.
"It wasn't like last game," Marc Staal said. "We controlled the puck and the play [but we] just weren't able to continually create enough to score . . . We just weren't able to get one tonight."
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The Rangers went 0-for-4 on the power play in Sunday night's 2-0 loss to the Lightning after scoring two power-play goals in each of the previous three games. It also was a return to bad form after something of a recent power-play revival.
The Rangers were 6-for-40 on the power play in the playoffs before then going 6-for-13. They now are 12-for-57 after being denied Sunday night.
The Rangers were able to rattle off three shots on their first extra-man chance Sunday night and then had only two in the next three.
"We didn't do a very good job of managing in the sense of making plays and chipping shots in," Derek Stepan said. "We worked extremely hard to get the puck back on the power play and then just made poor decisions with it."
Additionally, the penalty kill, which was 4-for-4 in Game 4, allowed Steven Stamkos' goal at 18:22 of the second, one of three Lightning power plays.
"On the power play, that's a big goal late in the second period and they moved the puck really well there," Henrik Lundqvist said. "[They] made it tough for us to just be in a good position and that's what they do."
It still was a relatively decent showing for a Rangers team that allowed three power-play goals in Game 2.
"We've done a better job of getting on their guys and being more aggressive," Carl Hagelin said before the game. "It's all about stick positioning. In the first couple games, we gave them a few passes through our box that we usually don't give up, but here, as of late, we've kind of shut them down a little bit."
They'll need more of that as the series moves back to Tampa for Game 6. The Rangers are 6-1 when they outscore an opponent on special teams in these playoffs. They're 1-4 when they're outscored.
"They have some plays that are unique to their power play and some guys that are really heads-up, smart players that are making good passes," Tanner Glass said of the Lightning. "For a team that's generally like that, you have to be a little more aware of the passing lanes behind you. They're trying to go through the seam a lot and across the zone, and one thing we've been really mindful of is making sure we have those cross-seam passes covered."
They can watch all the video. They can look for tendencies. But it was clear Sunday night that previous success can mean little for the next game.
"We wipe the slate clean after every game," Glass said. "It's about focusing on making the play that's there."
On Tuesday night, their Stanley Cup hopes may depend on it.