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Rangers look for a more balanced effort in Game 4 against the Penguins

Bobby Bevilacqua

Rangers vs penguins faceoff Game 3 4-19

Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

It’s never a must win game until you’re actually facing elimination, but the Rangers really can’t let this one slip away.

The Rangers are back home at Madison Square Garden today for Game 4, looking to rebound after a loss on Tuesday that saw the team get just 17 shots on goal, including only six over the last 30 minutes of the game. Matt Murray made his first career NHL Playoff appearance and not having much work. Sidney Crosby scored a goal on the power play and Matt Cullen scored the game winner. Rick Nash scored a shorthanded goal and Henrik Lundqvist made 29 saves.

The Rangers have now lost four straight playoff games on home ice, dating back to the Eastern Conference Finals last season. For a team that went 27-10-4 in the regular season at Madison Square Garden, the Rangers need to capitalize on any game that they get to play at home.

The coaching adjustments will also need to be better, because Alain Vigneault had a bad game on Tuesday. First off, the penalty kill let in another goal, which has been a problem all season long. The Penguins have gotten cross ice passes through all series long, and the Rangers need to make adjustments. They also need to focus less on trying to obliterate the Penguins, because it seemed like they cared more about making a hit instead of trying to sore and win.

Also, Vigneault made some odd decisions late in the game. First off, he essentially benched Kevin Hayes in the third period, and was playing Tanner Glass and the fourth line while the team was trailing. That’s not who you want on the ice consistently when you need a goal. When the Penguins were stacking the neutral zone and playing the trap, Vigneault still had the team try and make passes through the neutral zone, which didn’t work. At that point, you need to dump the puck and chase it and get it back. That never happened. AV will need to be more observant and take advantage of his last change.

The Penguins made the surprise move to start Matt Murray on Tuesday, and I’m assuming that he gets the start today. Marc-Andre Fleury has been dancing around the possibility of a return and I’m not sure if he’ll be ready soon. My guess is that Murray starts tonight. He won his first NHL playoff start, and posted a 9-2-1 record with a .930 save percentage and a 2.00 GAA. Last year’s AHL goalie of the year, Murray has shown that he’s capable of being the starting goalie when needed.

Kris Letang will take the ice tonight despite the fact that he really shouldn’t be playing, and he should be suspended. Letang dangerously swung his stick at Viktor Stalberg in Game 3, knocking out three of his teeth and cutting him on the chin. But the wonderful, wonderful folks over at the NHL department of player safety said that he won’t even get a hearing, and it wasn’t Letang’s fault because Dom Moore hit him first. If Letang does anything positive or relevant tonight, it will just be another embarrassment for the NHLPA and their continued failure to protect their players.

Sidney Crosby was shut down for the entire game by a great Rangers defense, yet still found his way onto the scoresheet. That’s what great players do, and Crosby has done it this series, scoring four points (2-2-4) in three games despite being the main focus of the Rangers defense. He has an ability to take over any game and he’ll need to be limited again tonight.

Henrik Lundqvist was great in Game 3, making 29 saves and keeping the Rangers in the game even when their offense was doing absolutely nothing. Hank has a .931 save percentage and a 2.16 GAA in the three games this series, and he’ll need to be at his best again. The Rangers are not really playing a complete game as of yet, and Hank tends to compensate for that.

Ryan McDonagh made his return to the lineup on Tuesday, forming a formidable defensive pairing with rookie Brady Skjei, who moved to the right side for that game. On the defensive front, McDonagh was very strong, using his skating and physicality to defend guys like Crosby and Malkin. But offensively, he looked a bit rusty. The passes weren’t as crisp and his shooting wasn’t as accurate or strong, but that’s understandable for someone with one hand. But Vigneault will need to deploy him at the right times and capitalize on his defensive prowess.

Rick Nash scored his first goal of the playoffs on Tuesday, a beautiful shorthanded goal, giving him three points in three playoff games which is tied for the team lead. He’s been very effective in the playoffs in all three zones, but I’d like to see him get a bit more offensively involved. The Rangers are going to need him to get lots of shots on goal and be a threat in the attacking third.

The Rangers and the Penguins will faceoff at Madison Square Garden at 7 PM. The game will be broadcasted on MSG Network.

POTENTIAL LINES (Not Confirmed)

Rick Nash-Derick Brassard-JT Miller

Chris Kreider-Derek Stepan-Mats Zuccarello

Oscar Lindberg-Eric Staal-Jesper Fast

Tanner Glass-Dominic Moore-Viktor Stalberg

Ryan McDonagh-Brady Skjei

Marc Staal-Kevin Klein

Keith Yandle-Dan Boyle

Henrik Lundqvist

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Posted on April 21, 2016, in Game Previews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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