RALEIGH, N.C. – The Rangers are in a similar spot entering Friday night’s Game 2 of their second-round series against the Hurricanes as they were after losing the first game of their first-round series to the Penguins.
But maybe better.
“Triple overtime is a little more deflating,” Ryan Reaves said after the Rangers conducted an optional practice on Thursday at PNC Arena.
The Rangers could not hold a one-goal, third-period lead in Game 1 Wednesday and lost, 2-1, in overtime. The Penguins won an epic Game 1 of the first-round series, 4-3, in triple overtime at Madison Square Garden. The Rangers, of course, rallied from a 3-1 series deficit to advance.
There’s also the difference of being down 1-0 in a series after losing the opener on the road instead of at home. The series shifts to the Garden for Game 3 on Sunday afternoon.
“It’s not deflating,” Reaves said of Wednesday’s loss. “Especially what we just went through last series down 3-1. We know how to bounce back. We know we played a good game. That’s one thing we have to take out of that is that, for two and a half periods, we carried most of the play. It’s not deflating. It’s motivation to go get the split tomorrow.”
To do so, the Rangers must play the structured, smart game they played through the first two periods on Wednesday while capitalizing on more of their chances.
That’s no given because the odds of again containing the fast-skating Hurricanes as the Rangers did for 40 minutes are not great.
But if the Rangers do again play with lead, they must be more aggressive with it.
“We had chances to put them away, we just couldn’t bury them,” Reaves said. “But we also got to look at what happened at the end of the game when we had a lead. You sit back and it feels like you’re just trying to hold onto the lead instead of extending the lead.
“We’ve got to learn when we’re up that doesn’t mean we sit back. We’ve got to step on their throats and get another one and get another one and keep our pressure up.”
Sustaining their forecheck will be key.
At their best in Game 1, the Rangers were playing up the ice, getting the pucks in deep and then winning battles to maintain possession in the Hurricanes’ zone. The Hurricanes’ speed was negated because they had to navigate the full 200 feet to mount an attack. But, in the third period, the Hurricanes were able to sustain offensive-zone time.
In that way, Game 1 was a bit of a microcosm of the Rangers’ season. They could go through long stretches where they effectively forechecked and played a smart game.
But they also went through patches where little of that was in their game.
That can’t be the case on Friday night if they want the split.
“We talked about this last night with a few guys,” Ryan Strome said. “It feels like we get on the ice and we get out of our zone and flip it out and change. We don’t get any forecheck and we just play on our heels. I think we’ve got to do a better of getting that first forechecker in more and get the first touch on pucks.”