Let the gamesmanship begin.
With Game 2 of the Eastern Conference first-round series with the Pittsburgh Penguins set for Saturday night at Madison Square Garden, Rangers coach Alain Vigneault again put referees on notice Friday: If Henrik Lundqvist gets jostled in the crease, make the call.
"Anybody that's followed the Rangers for the past 10 years with Henrik in goal knows that he plays in the blue paint," Vigneault said. "The league has a mandate to protect the goaltenders. He gets bumped or hit, it's the referees' responsibility to make sure he's protected."
Rangers defensemen are trying to clear the crease legally, Vigneault said, "but at some point, there's only so much a guy can do when they skate into the blue, so the referees better do their job."
After the Rangers' 2-1 win Thursday night, when Chris Kunitz was penalized for goaltender interference six minutes into the game and Maxim Lapierre and Steve Downie continued to cause havoc in front and elsewhere, Vigneault said: "We knew that they wanted to crash Hank's crease, put a lot of pressure there. They were trying after the whistle to get some stuff going, but we are not going to get involved."
After practice Friday, he said: "There's a willingness to go there and disturb. There was a lot of stuff from certain of their players after the whistle. We hope that the referees are going to see it and call it."
Blake Comeau scored the Penguins' goal on a rebound during a second-period battle in the crease between Lapierre and Dan Boyle, and Lundqvist gave referee Marc Joannette an earful afterward. "You try to just block it out," Lundqvist said. "Some players want to try to get in your face a little more. I expected it to happen."
Penguins coach Mike Johnston said the officials need no advice. "The refs made it clear what they're going to call for the playoffs. You saw right away they're going to protect the goaltenders," Johnston said. "The call on Kunitz was kind of a gray-area one, but they made it clear they're going to call that. We met with the supervisor before the series started; they're making sure all goaltenders are protected."
Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh was not surprised that the Penguins were creating traffic. "They've got some guys who are not afraid to go there,'' he said, "and we've got to make sure Hank can see the puck and get to the second and third rebound."
Notes & quotes: Dan Girardi, who was hit in the right side of his face by Kunitz's pass that deflected off his stick during Game 1, will play Saturday night. "Everything is fine and I'm ready to go," said Girardi, who missed the final 9:29. He immediately was examined after the puck hit him, but there was no damage. "Just a little swelling," said Girardi, who practiced Friday without any extra protection . . . Defenseman Kevin Klein, out since March 11 with a broken left forearm, skated on his own but has not been cleared to practice and will miss Game 2.