PITTSBURGH - The Rangers have 28 wins away from Madison Square Garden this season -- the most in the NHL -- and the road is now rising up to meet them in the playoffs.
Games 3 and 4 of the best-of-seven first-round series with the Penguins, which is tied at a game apiece, will be at Consol Energy Center beginning Monday night, and the Blueshirts need to respond.
"We've grown into a good road team; we kind of have an 'us-against-the-building' mentality," said captain Ryan McDonagh, who spoke to a handful of reporters at the team hotel Sunday. "Sometimes that helps you stick together and go through the ups and downs a little bit better."
In Saturday night's Game 2 at the Garden, a 4-3 Pittsburgh victory, the Rangers couldn't navigate those ups and downs, especially in the middle of the ice, and the visitors easily won the transition game.
"We had trouble getting pucks in deep and they're coming and they're coming," Chris Kreider said. "We turn the puck over, they're counterattacking and they're eventually going to get bodies in the paint. They're going to force turnovers; it's just about limiting those turnovers. They have good sticks, a good neutral zone setup, so for us it's focusing on details, executing tape-to-tape passes, try to go north-south instead of east-west."
McDonagh said the Rangers have to control Sidney Crosby's line and maintain structure and communication. "We should be moving our feet a little bit and getting hold of the puck first before we start anticipating the next play,'' he added. "We were going for a lot of stretch passes. It's something we usually try to stay away from, at least coming out of our zone. It just seemed like we were a little too spread out at times."
Game 3 is considered a swing game. When teams are tied 1-1 in a best-of-seven series, the Game 3 winner wins the series 67.3 percent of the time, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Penguins coach Mike Johnston thought his team's battle level in Game 2 was "real high," as was "loose-puck intensity."
Rangers coach Alain Vigneault, who said he hadn't settled on a lineup for Game 3, wouldn't say the effort was lacking. "I don't think we're going to win all the foot races and all the battles,'' he said. "There's going to be some 50-50 pucks. Do I think as a team we need to play better? There's no doubt, but it's been very hard-fought so far. Execution at some points has been good, and other points, give them credit. We've played six periods of hockey. Five of them I've liked. Didn't like the second [in Game 2].''
And Vigneault wasn't pleased with the 2-for-12 power play or three penalties in the third. One slowed momentum and the other led to the fourth Penguins goal.
"We had been very disciplined until that point," he said. "We're going to take some penalties, but we've got to do more on specialty teams."
Notes & quotes: Defenseman Kevin Klein, out since March 11 with a broken left arm, made the trip, but Vigneault ruled him out for Game 3.