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Rangers head to Pittsburgh for Game 5 with their season on the line

Bobby Bevilacqua

Rangers vs Penguins Game 4 4-21

Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

Just like the last two seasons, the Rangers find themselves in a 3 games to 1 series deficit, dropping two straight games on home ice to the Penguins. Starting tonight at the CONSOL Energy Center, Alain Vigneault’s squad will be looking to make it three straight seasons with a come from behind series victory.

In 2014, the Rangers defeated the Penguins after being down 3-1, winning two on the road and Game 6 at MSG. Last year, the Rangers found themselves in the same hole to the Capitals, winning three straight games including a Game 7 overtime winner from Derek Stepan.

The only positive to take out of this is that the Rangers have been in this situation before, they tend to respond well to adversity, and they’ve knocked Pittsburgh out of the playoffs for two straight seasons. Other than that, it’s a tough mountain to climb.

The Penguins are on an incredible run, winning 17 of their last 20 games overall and outscoring the Rangers 15-7 in that span. Special teams has also been a huge factor in this series, with the Penguins scoring three power play goals in the disastrous Game 4 loss. The Penguins have gone 7-19 on the power play, which is as many goals as the Rangers have scored in the entire series, and the Rangers are just 1-16 on the man advantage.

That could prompt some lineup changes, with Alain Vigneault seriously considering inserting Raphael Diaz into the lineup to improve the play on the man advantage, but their play at even strength needs to improve, as does Henrik Lundqvist, who allowed four goals on 18 shots. Everything needs to get better if the Rangers want a chance at winning this game.

Matt Murray will be in net for the third consecutive game, looking to win his third straight playoff game in three career starts. So far, he has allowed just one goal in 120 minutes, and he’s looked very solid. He was the AHL’s goalie of the year last season, and he’s showing what he can do at the NHL level.

Evgeni Malkin exploded for four points on Thursday, bringing him to six points (2-4-6) in just three playoff games. He’s causing lots of problems for the Rangers, mainly because he can play with Crosby on the top line, or he’s been centering the third line at times, which causes matchup problems. Malkin is an incredible talent and a force to be reckoned with.

Carl Hagelin does not have any points in the four playoff games, but he’s still a threat. Last season, he scored the overtime winner to send the Penguins home in the first round. So with the Rangers luck, it would be fitting if he did something similar today. Hagelin’s speed is a threat down the wings, and he’s an effective two way player.

Henrik Lundqvist will be in net today after a rough Game 4, allowing four goals on 18 shots. He clearly wasn’t at his best, but this defensive group is doing him no favors. It’s a shame that this team relies so heavily on him to win them games, but that’s the sad reality. Lundqvist will need to be at his absolute best with the way this team is playing.

Derick Brassard has three points in this series, all coming in the Game 2 win. But “Big Game Brass” has been held without a point in all three of the losses, which has been quite disappointing. He’s consistently been the team’s best playoff performer for a few years now, and he has to be able to come through in the clutch today, especially after a few quiet games.

Mats Zuccarello is another player that needs to step up, scoring just two points (1-1-2) so far. His 26 goals in the regular season was behind only Brassard, yet he hasn’t been all that noticeable throughout the series. This isn’t meant to pin the struggles on him, but he has to be a big game performer. Starting tonight.

The Rangers and the Penguins will faceoff today at 3 PM. The game will be broadcasted on NBC.

POTENTIAL LINEUP

Rick Nash-Derick Brassard-JT Miller

Chris Kreider-Derek Stepan-Mats Zuccarello

Kevin Hayes-Eric Staal-Jesper Fast

Tanner Glass-Dominic Moore-Viktor Stalberg

Ryan McDonagh-Brady Skjei

Marc Staal-Raphael Diaz

Keith Yandle-Kevin Klein

Henrik Lundqvist

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Posted on April 23, 2016, in Game Previews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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