GREENBURGH, N.Y. (AP) Trailing 3-1 in a series is nothing new for the New York Rangers.
It’s the third consecutive year it’s happened.
They rallied against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the conference semifinals in 2014. They did the same thing against Washington last season, becoming the first NHL team to overcome 3-1 deficits in consecutive seasons.
The Rangers have won 15 of the past 19 playoff games in which they faced elimination, going back to Game 6 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals in 2012 against Ottawa. New York has also won nine of 11 playoff games when facing elimination since the start of the 2014 playoffs.
Once again the Rangers face a win-or-else scenario, and it’s the Penguins again this season. The difference is this is the opening round of the postseason, and these are two different teams, although many of the faces are the same.
This Penguins team is playing two-way hockey under Mike Sullivan. The Rangers, who went to the Stanley Cup finals in 2014 and the Eastern Conference finals last season, don’t seem as sharp this season. Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist has been a little off, the defense has been lacking and no one is carrying the offense.
Lundqvist said that overcoming 3-1 deficits in the past means nothing heading into Game 5 at Pittsburgh on Saturday.
“It’s now,” said the 34-year-old said Friday after practice. “It’s what we do this year, in this series.”
Lundqvist, who was lifted in Thursday’s night’s 5-0 blowout after giving up four goals on 18 shots in 26 minutes, feels the experience of coming back in recent seasons will be useful, but it will be more important for the Rangers to play their game.
For him, personally, it involves being more focused emotionally and technically. While he is quick to add that Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and most of everyone on the Penguins is playing well, confidence is not something the Rangers lack.
“You can’t look at the big picture, that’s when you get lost,” Lundqvist said. “You just have to break it down and focus on your process. We know we are playing a good team and we know they are confident. But last time there we managed to win. We just need to do everything right.”
Coach Alain Vigneault said the most important thing for the coaching staff is to make sure the team has a short memory after consecutive bad performances and to narrow their focus and stay in the moment during games.
“What is in front of us is a must game,” Vigneault said. “We’re aware of it if we want to continue. To a man in that room, I know they all know they can play better than they have so far.”
Special teams have killed the Rangers in the series. New York is 1 for 16 on the power play. Pittsburgh has converted 7 of 19 chances with the extra skater, including 3 of 6 in Game 4.
New York also has to make sure Penguins goaltender Matt Murray works a little harder than he has in the past two games. He has faced 48 shots, but most of them were not difficult. The Rangers’ best chances ended with shots that missed the net.
“Just because we have done it before does not mean it is going to happen again,” Rangers forward Mats Zuccarello said. “It’s not going to work without hard work and dedication from everyone. At the same time we have to believe that it can happen. It’s our only chance right now. I think we are a confident group and we are going to work hard.”
NOTES: Vigneault said D Dan Girardi remains day to day. He has not played since Game 1. … The coach said rookie Oscar Lindberg played well in his postseason debut. … Vigneault is considering using D Raphael Diaz to add some punch to the power play.