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Rangers need a more disciplined effort in Game 3 on the road

Bobby Bevilacqua

rangers vs lightning Game 2 scrum 5-18

Game 2 got very chippy and aggressive towards the end. That will likely carry over into Game 3 in Tampa Bay tonight. Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals was an anomaly. The Rangers were completely off their game for the first 34 minutes. They took too many penalties, made way too many errors, and didn’t give themselves much of a chance to win from the initial puck drop.

I don’t think that will be the case in Game 3, which is down in Tampa Bay at Amalie Arena. Ryan McDonagh and Alain Vigneault were two of the most vocal people following the loss, and they were not happy. McDonagh criticized the team’s “embarrassing, stupid, selfish penalties,” and head coach Alain Vigneault criticized the miscues and lack of scoring.

Now the series shifts to Tampa Bay with both teams having secured one win out of the first two games at Madison Square Garden. Now the Lightning, the best home team in the NHL (32-8-1), get a crack at capitalizing on their home ice idvantage against the Rangers, the best road team in the NHL (28-11-2).

Dating back to 1992, the Rangers have won 11 of their last 12 Game 2s on the road. In the playoffs, they’re just 3-3 away from Madison Square Garden, but they played very well wherever they went in the regular season. This is a team that is comfortable in opposing arenas, with loud opposing fans and the odds stacked against them. Luckily for them, the Rangers thrive in that environment.

The Rangers and Lightning played one game at the Amalie Arena, Martin St. Louis’ homecoming, with Tampa securing a 4-3 win with goals from Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov and two from Ryan Callahan. Mats Zuccarello, Dan Boyle and Rick Nash all scored for the Rangers.

dan boyle 5-13

Dan Boyle scored at Amalie Arena in the regular season, and has been the Rangers’ best defenseman in the first two games of the Eastern Conference Finals. Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

The Lightning’s offense exploded in Game 2, scoring a total of six goals on 26 shots. They did most of their damage on the power play, scoring three times on the man advantage, including one just seven seconds after a penalty to Derek Stepan had expired.

Tyler Johnson stole the show, scoring three goals, one at even strength, on the power play and shorthanded, for the first ever Tampa Bay Lightning postseason hat trick. His scoring is well documented at this point, and he is tied with Corey Perry of the Anaheim Ducks for the lead in points in the playoffs, with 16 (11-5-16). He’s a threat at any time, in any situation, and the Rangers need to try and stop him, as well as the rest of the “Triplet” line, Nikita Kucherov (6-8-14) and Ondrej Palat (4-6-10).

Ben Bishop was very good for the Lightning in Game 2, finishing with 35 saves in Monday’s win. His size allows him to square up to shooters very easily, take up a lot of space in the net, and have a long reach with his glove, blocker, and pads. The Rangers are going to need to figure him out, and learn how to get more than two goals past Bishop.

Henrik Lundqvist allowed six goals on 26 shots in the loss, the most goals allowed in a playoff game by him since his first ever playoff start back in 2006. But it wasn’t like he played horribly or anything. He had little chance to succeed. Three of the goals against him were scored on the power play, and one was scored just after a Rangers penalty had expired, when Tampa Bay still had a man advantage in the Rangers’ zone.

henrik lundqvist pad save 5-16

Henrik Lundqvist didn’t have his best game on Monday. But he usually bounces back after a bad game, and plays better when he is angry. Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

But have you ever seen Lundqvist play after a bad game? Or when he is pissed off? He usually performs very well, and that’s how I think he will play in Game 3. Very well. Two of the reasons that the Rangers are still in the playoffs are Lundqvist and their penalty kill. Neither was great in Game 2, but I’m pretty confident that Henrik will rebound tonight.

Alain Vigneault finally addressed the lack of scoring, most notably from Rick Nash, the team’s leading goal scorer in the regular season. “He’s working extremely hard, he’s getting physically involved, he’s getting some looks,” Vigneault said about Nash. “Would I like him to finish on some of those looks? Yes. Do we need him to finish on those looks if we intend to win? Probably yes. He knows that. But this is a team game, a team concept. We need all to be better from our goaltender out.”

Yes, Rick Nash has been a fantastic all-around player, and has done a lot to help the Rangers win. His presence causes defenses to focus on him, and he creates chances for everyone around him. But in the regular season, Nash was always the guy that they could look to when they needed a goal, and he usually delivered. The bottom line is that in these playoffs, the Rangers need someone else that they can look to for big time goal scoring, and it needs to be Rick Nash. He needs to start scoring more goals.

Rick Nash 5-16

Bottom line. RIck Nash needs to be the go-to goal scorer for the Rangers. Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

Martin St. Louis also needs to be better. The future hall of famer has six assists in the 14 playoff games, but is still waiting on the first goal. He’s counted on as a productive top six player at even strength and on the power play, and he has not been that guy in the playoffs. In Game 2, he missed on a backhand from 10 feet out, and stumbled on a 5v3 Rangers power play, allowing a shorthanded goal.

St. Louis has always been a streaky player in his career, and still has the ability to make a difference. It’s all about getting his confidence back, getting a bounce and scoring that first goal. He was the Rangers’ best forward in last year’s playoffs, and the team needs that player tonight.

Dan Boyle has been the best defenseman in the first two games, motivated to beat his former team and more comfortable in the up-tempo style of play. Boyle had two assists on the power play in Game 2, and was responsible on the other side of the puck. Look for him to have an impact tonight.

The message is simple. Stay out of the penalty box, and start converting on the Grade A chances that the Rangers are given. Too many times they have missed on good opportunities, and it has cost them at times. The margin for error is razor thin, and the Blueshirts will need to be good.

The Rangers and the Lightning will faceoff at Amalie Arena at 8 PM. The game will be broadcasted on NBCSN.

EXPECTED LINES (Not Confirmed)

Rick Nash-Derick Brassard-Kevin Hayes

Chris Kreider-Derek Stepan-Jesper Fast

Carl Hagelin-Dominic Moore-Martin St. Louis

Tanner Glass-James Sheppard-JT Miller

Ryan McDonagh-Dan Girardi

Marc Staal-Dan Boyle

Keith Yandle-Kevin Klein

Henrik Lundqvist

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Posted on May 20, 2015, in Game Previews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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