MONTREAL — It’s now a best-of-three first-round playoff series. The Rangers have played well in three of the four games, and could have won both matches at Bell Centre last week. But Claude Julien’s Canadiens are very similar to the Rangers, and play well at home. Here’s some keys for the Rangers in Game 5 on Thursday night:
1. Scorers need to score.
Chris Kreider, J.T. Miller and Kevin Hayes have yet to record a point in the series. Mika Zibanejad, Derek Stepan and Jimmy Vesey are goal-less. The Rangers have produced eight goals (one an empty-netter) so they know scoring on Carey Price isn't impossible. They'll probably need 30-plus shots, though, to beat him a couple times. Snapping the 0-for-12 lull on the power play wouldn't hurt, either. Maybe Pavel Buchnevich, who got his feet wet in Game 4, will help there.
2. Limit odd-man rushes.
Henrik Lundqvist (1.89 goals-against average, .944 save percentage; eight goals on 144 shots) can't be perfect, so allowing the Canadiens too many open looks in high-danger areas spell trouble. With a man in the penalty box, there's even more open ice, so keeping their discipline against shift-disturbers like Andrew Shaw, Steve Ott and Brendan Gallagher wouldn't hurt.
3. Block out the crowd.
Although the fans at Madison Square Garden were far more vocal and supportive during Game 4 than in Game 3, the atmosphere doesn't compare to the Bell Centre experience. On the positive side, the Rangers have been here twice already in the series, so nothing's unexpected. But if the game turns south quickly, Alain Vigneault shouldn't be afraid to use a timeout. We've all seen things snowball in the bleu-blanc-et-rouge cacophony.
4. Be relentless on the forecheck and focus on puck support.
If the Canadiens blue liners have a red carpet to move the puck out of their zone, the Rangers will be on their heels for 60 -- or more -- minutes. Sure, the Rangers try to disrupt passing plays in the neutral zone, but skaters with a head of steam can back defenders off. One-on-one battles are always important, but the Canadiens will likely send two players along the wall to control pucks. Don't judge the Canadiens solely by Game 4; it was their weakest game of the four, and they were in it to the end.
5. Keep Canadiens captain Max Pacioretty off the scoresheet.
Pacioretty's 35 goals and 67 points led the team during the regular season, but he has just one assist in the series. Several other Canadiens can light the lamp -- Alexander Radulov, Paul Byron and Shea Weber, for example. But containing the left wing, a native of New Canaan, Connecticut, who has scored between 30 and 39 goals in each of his five full seasons with Montreal, is critical.