Rangers believe they can be better after disappointing effort in Game 4 loss to Devils
These are the Rangers, so you know nothing is going to be easy, even if it looked that way early in this first round matchup against the Devils.
After last year’s Ranger run, you anticipate a series like this going deep, stuffed with both euphoria and aching.
But what’s unexpected is what happened Monday night at Madison Square Garden in the Rangers’ 3-1 loss in Game 4: a performance so humdrum that it left the sellout crowd of 18,006 quiet – yes, in the playoffs – or mad for significant stretches and Gerard Gallant annoyed enough to describe his team’s efforts like this:
“Not good. Not good enough. Not even close to good enough.”
The question for the Rangers now is, what now? They won the first two games of the series at the Prudential Center in convincing fashion, so much so that it was reasonable to wonder if a sweep was looming. They lost an overtime contest in Game 3 and now, after a two-goal loss that felt bigger, they are tied in the best-of-7 series, 2-2, though the Devils own all the momentum with Game 5 set for Thursday at The Rock.
“It was real disappointing to watch that,” Gallant said of Game 4.
Asked if Games 1 and 2 were a blueprint the Blueshirts were looking to get back to, he said, “They were perfect games. We said that. We talked about that. We come home, big crowd. The overtime game was a good hockey game. Coulda went either way.
“Tonight was a close hockey game, but we didn’t show up. We didn’t play hard enough. We didn’t compete hard enough. All we did was yap at the linesmen for getting thrown out of the face-offs. Lotta bad things tonight.”
The Rangers even heard some boos from fans desperate to cheer about something, anything. After the power play failed for the third time – the Blueshirts, who feasted with a man advantage in Jersey, are now 0-for-8 over the last two games – plenty of rooters made their displeasure clear.
Still, the Rangers stayed close and Devils coach Lindy Ruff praised the Blueshirts’ defense for limiting space on the ice. And when Vincent Trocheck rammed in a rebound to tie the score at 1 just 1:42 into the third period, the Garden sounded like the Garden again and it seemed the Rangers had a chance to steal the game.
But these aren’t the same Devils from earlier this series. The hockey world wondered how New Jersey’s kids would respond to the rugged environment of the endurance contest that is the NHL Playoffs and now, it seems, we have an answer.
Their playoff legs are firmly under them now and they are dangerous.
At the 8:22 mark of the third period, Jonas Siegenthaler, who had been scratched in Game 2, scored the tie-breaking goal, his second big play of the night. Earlier, he had swept the puck out of the crease, even as goalie Akira Schmid frantically scrambled for it, and freed Jack Hughes on a breakaway. Hughes potted the first goal of the game to finish that sequence.
After Siegenthaler’s goal, Gallant hoped for some desperation from his charges.
“Didn’t see it,” Gallant said.
Something else to put on the ledger, alongside this: “How many times did you see us whipping pucks across and them picking them off in the middle?” Gallant asked rhetorically. “Just the old recipe that when you look like you’re tired or a little bit lazy, that’s what happens. We didn’t have the support in the neutral zone we usually do.”
In the Rangers’ room afterward, there was a lot of talk about a re-set, about how what the team envisioned as a tough series has been boiled down to a best-of-3 starting Thursday.
Can they solve Schmid, the 22-year-old from Switzerland who has out-dueled Igor Shesterkin in consecutive games? Can they get the power play cooking again and slow down Hughes, who now has three goals in the series? We’ll see.
They believe one thing, for sure. “As a group in here, we can definitely be better,” Jacob Trouba said.
“We got away a little bit from what was successful in the first two games,” added Mika Zibanejad. “I think we’re overworking a few situations, trying to do it all in one play and not just chip away and get into the game. When that happens, we might wait for someone else to do it. We just have to get back to the way we’ve played, I think, all year.
“We have to trust ourselves.”
Can it be that easy? For these Rangers, it seems, nothing ever is, at least in the playoffs.
Source: Yahoo Sports