OTTAWA — The Rangers’ top forwards have looked at video, and more importantly in the mirror, and are annoyed with what they see.
After a 2-1 loss to the Senators on Thursday night in the opening game of their Stanley Cup second-round playoff series, Saturday’s Game 2 isn’t exactly gut-check time for the Rangers, but they won’t be winning much more without some goals from players such as Chris Kreider, Kevin Hayes, J.T. Miller, Jimmy Vesey and Derek Stepan.
During the regular season, the quintet produced 100 goals. In seven postseason games, Stepan’s empty-netter from 180 feet is all those five have to show.
“I’ve stunk since the playoffs started,” Stepan said Friday after practice. “I’ve not been very good with the puck.”
Asked about Stepan’s play, coach Alain Vigneault said: “Without singling him out, there’s a lot of players in our group that have to be better. If our intentions are to win, you’ve got to play better than we did [Thursday], and I’m not taking away anything from Ottawa. This group is very accountable. If you look at the scoring chances and the specialty teams, that’s the area where [the Senators] got the checkmark. They were a lot better than we were.”
Said Vesey, “As much as everyone talks about how Ottawa plays, I thought we got through the neutral zone fine. Shot numbers can be deceiving. We want more quality shots and get that second and third whack and get more bodies to the net. Once we get the first goal, we’ve got to find a way to get a second. We’ve got a find a way to get a little hungrier . . . The last series [against Montreal] was more up and down. This series might have to be more possess the puck in their end and generate chances from there.”
Kreider, who screened Craig Anderson on the Rangers’ lone goal by Ryan McDonagh, said his approach won’t change. “It’s paramount that we continue to get traffic and get pucks to the net. Get in front, take away the goalie’s eyes,” he said. “We got some pretty good looks, just couldn’t finish. It doesn’t matter how fast or how slow we go as long as we get through the neutral zone. He’s a very good goaltender. This time of year, teams aren’t hanging around with questionable goaltending, questionable structure.”
Neither coach indicated lineup changes, and everyone expects another tight game.
Senators coach Guy Boucher and his players are motivated in part because they are perceived as underdogs. Asked about Boucher’s remark that players were motivated to win Game 1 by the fear that they didn’t want to be swept, Alexandre Burrows agreed.
“For us [Thursday], we had some fear, for sure, playing them. We saw them play against Montreal, the best team in our division, and they were able to win that series,’’ Burrows said. “We want to go out and prove to people that the Vegas odds are wrong. We’re expecting their best.”
Told of Burrows’ comment, Vigneault said: “That’s a pretty good line. I’ll remember it for next time.”
Notes & quotes: Boucher said his team needs 40 shots a game against Henrik Lundqvist; they had 43 on Thursday night . . . There were about 2,000 empty seats at Canadian Tire Centre on Thursday night. A larger turnout is expected for Saturday’s game, but players noticed. “That’s something that we can’t control,” the Senators’ Erik Karlsson said. “We go out there every day to do the best that we can for this team and this city. Whatever reason it was for not being full, again, I have no knowledge of . . . It is what it is, but I feel like we have great support all over the city and we have great fans.”