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Rangers stuck in Catch-up-22 situation

Dion Phaneuf #2 and Mike Hoffman #68 of

Dion Phaneuf #2 and Mike Hoffman #68 of the Ottawa Senators celebrate their overtime win as Derek Stepan #21 of the New York Rangers sates off the ice in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference second round during the 2017 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Canadian Tire Centre on April 29, 2017 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Credit: Getty Images / Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photo

The good news and the bad news for the Rangers are exactly the same: They have been playing well in this Stanley Cup second-round playoff series. That is great from their standpoint because it shows they can bounce back in a heartbeat. It also is awful because if they are down 2-0 after playing well, what does it say about their chances?

All things considered, their situation probably is not as bleak as it looked Saturday, when they blew a two-goal lead in the final 3:19 of regulation and lost to the Senators, 6-5, in double overtime. They are coming home for two games at Madison Square Garden and they appear to be healthy. But it sure is complicated.

During a conference call with reporters Sunday, Alain Vigneault acknowledged the series’ Catch-22 feel (that is, a paradox). The Rangers have not been overwhelmed in any way, never having trailed for an instant Saturday until Jean-Gabriel Pageau scored for the fourth time. Yet they are in a big hole.

“I’ve got to tell you, I think this extra day off between games is going to be beneficial for us,” Vigneault said, referring to the break from Saturday afternoon to Tuesday night. The additional time off will mean both more rest and more work for a team that needs to forget some things and remember others, in the Catch-22 mode.

“There’s no doubt that was a tough loss yesterday, considering the way we played,” Vig neault said. “Having this extra 24 hours to consume it and be able to take the time to adjust in a couple areas, I think, is going to be beneficial to our group.”

Players were off Sunday while the coaches did extra work, dissecting the video from Saturday. There was a lot there that they liked. “We’re down 2-0, but other than the first period in [Game 1], when they got quite a few chances, a lot of them on their power play, in our last six periods, we’ve played some pretty good hockey,” Vigneault said, counting the two overtimes Saturday. “We’ve gotten some good looks, we’ve been able to limit a pretty skilled team and we’ve been able to generate quite a few chances.”

And still they are halfway to elimination. Go figure. But figuring is tough, just like playing desperately and disciplined at the same time.

Yet another contradiction: The Rangers insist that every series is completely different, so you should totally disregard your bad history. At the same time, their greatest hope is in recalling how well they recovered after a lackluster Game 3 loss to the Canadiens put them behind 2-1 in the last series. They never lost again in that round.

Another conundrum: In Game 4 against the Canadiens, one of Vigneault’s decisions breathed life into the team as he put Pavel Buchnevich in the lineup. In crunch time Saturday, one of Vigneault’s decisions was to bench Buchnevich (among other young players). “Minutes are based on how you’re playing and what you’re doing for the team that night,” Vigneault said.

The bottom line is, the same glass is both half full and half empty. On balance, the law of averages and a return to the Garden probably point to the former in the Rangers’ case, at least for Tuesday night. But you never know.

The Senators thought their power play was a great asset. Then on Saturday, the Rangers scored more on Ottawa’s man-advantages than Ottawa did, 2-0.

Another incongruity: Pageau’s job is to keep opponents from scoring, and he wound up scoring four goals. He entered Saturday’s game with one goal in seven playoff games.

Vigneault said, “Maybe I’m going to put a checker on their checker.”

In Ottawa, Senators coach Guy Boucher told reporters, “I’m going to check his checkers and he’ll check my checkers. I guess it won’t be a chess match then.”

It will be Catch-22 squared.

New York Sports