Head coach Peter Laviolette of the Rangers looks on against the...

Head coach Peter Laviolette of the Rangers looks on against the Carolina Hurricanes during the first period in Game 2 of the Second Round of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday, May 7, 2024. Credit: Jim McIsaac

The way the schedule worked out, following the Rangers’ debacle in their 4-1 loss Monday to the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 5 of the teams’ second-round playoff series at the Garden, both teams got a chance Tuesday to catch their breath, rest, and get something of a reset before going back to practice Wednesday to prepare for Game 6 on Thursday.

And for the Rangers, the extra day is probably a good thing. They have a lot to fix.

“I think it's good, just from a rest and reset standpoint,’’ Rangers coach Peter Laviolette said on a Zoom call with local media Tuesday. “They (the Hurricanes) get the same rest and reset, and so anytime something happens to both teams, it's equal. It's not like they had to play another game today and we're gonna catch them tired at some point… But I do think it's good just to make sure that we're dialed in and we're ready to go with our game.’’

It’s probably important to note at this point that the Rangers still hold a 3-2 lead in the series.. They can still close the series out, and advance to the Eastern Conference finals, with a win in Carolina Thursday. It only seems like their backs are to the wall because they have lost two straight. Their power play – the difference-maker earlier in the series – seems to have dried up, and the Hurricanes seem to have all the momentum.

But in the locker room after Game 5, the Rangers players were unanimous in the message that they don’t believe that there is momentum from game-to-game in a series and that they still have the upper hand.

“We knew it wasn't going to be easy,’’ center Mika Zibanejad said. “They've been fighting back, and they won today. We're still up 3-2. Just reset, and look forward to Game 6.’’

“I don't read too much into momentum game-to-game,’’ captain Jacob Trouba said. “It's a clean slate. You get a fresh crack at this. It’s a 0-0 game in a couple days.’’

The Rangers blew a third-period lead and were blitzed for three goals in a game-changing, six-minute, 23-second span on Monday and they allowed four goals in all in the third. Several times Tuesday, when he was asked for a read on particular players, Laviolette said the whole team was so bad in the game that it was hard to make evaluations of any individuals.

So, asked whether Game 5 was one of those where a coach would normally just throw the tape out and move on, he essentially said, yes – to a degree.

“I'm not saying that when it's happened to us in the past that we've thrown the game in the (trash) bucket and moved on to the next day,’’ he said. “I think there are always pieces that you can learn from, whether there are some good things that you did, (or) some things that you needed to do better. Maybe you're referencing previous games. Maybe it's (having) meetings. Maybe it is throwing it in the basket and moving on.’’

The question for Laviolette and his coaching staff now, is, are there changes they can – or need to – make for Game 6? Is it time to pull out all the stops and play every last card they have now?

Artemi Panarin, who scored the game-winner in overtime in Game 3, was minus-5 over Games 4 and 5, and noticeably was unable to defend Sebastian Aho in the slot on his goal in Game 4, or beat Evgeny Kuznetsov to a rebound in the slot on his goal in Game 5. Laviolette often double-shifts Panarin anyway, so might it be an option to move him off Vincent Trocheck’s line, perhaps to Zibanejad’s?

Or, can Filip Chytil, who returned to the lineup after a six-month absence for Game 3, but then missed Game 4 with an illness and Game 5 with soreness, return to the lineup for Game 6? If so, how much ice time can he handle and could he add a shooting presence to the third line?

And is there a chance that Blake Wheeler, who took off the non-contact jersey for Monday’s morning skate, after being out since February with a leg injury, could be ready to put back in the lineup for Thursday? If there is, should Laviolette take that chance?

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