Rangers could use a second wind
ROB LONGLEY, QMI AGENCY
|Head coach John Tortorella, of the New York Rangers, and Ruslan Fedotenko react after their 5-3 loss to the New Jersey Devils in Game 5. (GETTY)
NEW YORK - At some point, the New York Rangers may be reduced to playing on fumes.
That's no way to make a run at a Stanley Cup, should the Rangers qualify for the final against the rested Los Angeles Kings.
On Friday night at the Prudential Center, across the Hudson River from downtown Manhattan, the Rangers will attempt to avoid elimination in what will be their 20th playoff game. Rangers coach John Tortorella believes the top seed in the Eastern Conference has supreme confidence it can force a Game 7 back at Madison Square Garden on Sunday night.
The Rangers certainly played the part Wednesday in a 5-3 loss against the Devils that might have been New York's best effort in the series thus far.
And as the Rangers have shown previously during these playoffs, they have an ability to throw out their best when required.
In the opening round they twice fought off elimination to the upstart, eighth-seeded Ottawa Senators, and in Round 2 won a dramatic Game 7 against the Washington Capitals to advance to the conference final.
"We've been through these situations a lot this year, including in the playoffs," Tortorella said after practice Thursday at MSG. "So I'm very comfortable with our mind-set. As we approach our game, I'm very comfortable in where we're going to go. There's not a lot of panic, (the players) just go about their business and we're a pretty good hockey team."
If there was any big cause for optimism in the Game 5 defeat, it was that some of the Rangers' big players showed up with strong efforts. In particular, captain Ryan Callahan had his most effective game of the series. It wasn't enough to overcome the three-goal hole they found themselves in before the game was half a period old, but enough to fuel the tank for their biggest game yet.
"I think the most important thing that happened (Wednesday) after a pretty screwy start is that I thought our mind-set changed," Tortorella said. "It think that's really important for our team. I think we were 'us' for a lot of the game. We played more on our toes. We played to who we are and we have to do that (Friday.)"
The New York Rangers have been solid when facing elimination these playoffs and need to summon the survival skills one more time. Here's five keys for it to happen Friday night in Game 6 against the New Jersey Devils.
FIVE SURVIVAL TIPS FOR THE RANGERS
1. Back to the throne
King Henrik Lundqvist was anything but in Game 5, allowing three goals on the first five shots he faced. He often wins games for the Rangers and will need to again.
2. Paging Mr. Free Agent
The Rangers opened the vault last summer to secure centre Brad Richards for moments like this. So far this series, he has earned little of that coin.
3. Marty Party
Martin Brodeur struggled in Game 6 against the Rangers 18 years ago and he was suspect in Game 5 two nights ago. He can still steal a game, however, as the Devils have given up just three goals or fewer in their past nine playoff games.
4. Fore Play
When the Devils are at their best they are aggressive on the forecheck, the best example being Wednesday's game-winning goal. The Rangers need to respond by not turning over the puck when the heat is on.
5. Fourth Play
The Devils have been getting serious production from their fourth line and it has been killing the Rangers. That has to be eliminated or the Blueshirts will be.