TAMPA, Fla. – Adam Fox and K’Andre Miller both called teammate Jacob Trouba “a rock’’ for the Rangers, who hold a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference Final against the Tampa Bay Lightning, which resumes Tuesday with Game 4 at Amalie Arena.
The defensemen were expressing support for Trouba after he was called for three minor penalties in the Rangers’ 3-2 loss in Game 3 on Sunday. Tampa Bay scored on two of the three power plays it received courtesy of Trouba’s penalties, erasing an early 2-0 Rangers lead.
“It's not his fault,’’ Fox said after the game. “Obviously, some calls happen. That one at the start of the third [a holding call, against Tampa’s Anthony Cirelli 37 seconds into the period], I don't know about that one. But, you know, ‘Troubs,’ he's played a lot of games, He's a leader for us. He bounces back.’’
“I know he was pretty dialed in at practice today,’’ Miller, Trouba’s regular partner on defense, said Monday after the Rangers’ brief skate at Amalie Arena. “So that's good to see. He's the type of player to bounce back from those games. So I expect to see him just doing him, coming out tomorrow.’’
Trouba has been a physical force throughout the playoffs. He’s landed several big hits that have changed games, generating momentum for the Rangers, and, in at least a couple cases – such as Game 5 against Pittsburgh, with Sidney Crosby, and Game 7 against Carolina, with Seth Jarvis – cleanly knocked an opponent out of the game.
Trouba leads the Rangers with 25 penalty minutes in the playoffs, but coach Gerard Gallant is OK with that.
“Penalties happen,’’ Gallant said Monday. “[Trouba] plays a lot of minutes. So unfortunately he got some penalties. But I want him to play the same game. Keep working hard, keep battling hard. Troubs is a great defenseman, and plays tough for us and plays hard. So a couple tough calls, you know, the little trips, but they're penalties, so you’ve got to call them. And we didn't get by some of them, but it's the way it goes.’’
Gallant was less concerned with Trouba’s tough Game 3 than he was with finding a way for his team to be more gritty on Tuesday. The task may be tougher if the Rangers don’t have either Ryan Strome or Barclay Goodrow. Both players were injured in Sunday’s game. Strome left the game early but Gallant expects him to play; Goodrow finished the game, but Gallant seemed less sure about his status. Both were among the regulars who didn’t practice Monday.
“Tampa's a good team and we knew the pushback was going to be there [Sunday], you know what I mean?’’ he said. “They were down 2-0 coming home, so we knew they're going to bring their best game, and they did. They had 50 shots. They competed real hard. They won a lot of loose puck battles, and they, were gritty, played a gritty game.
“We still had an opportunity to win that game, but we didn't,’’ he said. “But again, we know that they're not going to give you anything for nothing. They've won what, 10 series in a row? So you know, we're going to have to take it from them… They're not going to give us anything.’’