NHL

Rangers must learn from past Game 2s

Hockey Primetime Denis Gorman
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John Tortorella did not ascribe any particular significance to Wednesday night’s Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Final.

His captain did.

Ryan Callahan, the heart and soul and conscience of the New York Rangers, sat at his stall after a midafternoon practice at Madison Square Garden and testified to the importance of taking a 2-0 series lead.

“You definitely want it. We know last two series we kind of let up in that second game or haven’t won that second game. We’re putting a lot of emphasis on (Wednesday's) game,” Callahan said.

The Rangers lost Game 2s to Ottawa (3-2 in overtime) and Washington (3-2) after winning both series openers.

“I just think we have to have that mindset of (being) desperate and try to win our battles," Callahan added. "If we do that, we give ourselves a best chance (to win).”

The Rangers lead the best-of-seven series 1-0 after Monday night’s 3-0 win in Game 1. Yet the score belied how strong the Devils were. New Jersey controlled play in the Rangers' end. The stalwart play of Vezina Trophy finalist Henrik Lundqvist was the reason the Devils were unable to score.

“Plenty,” Tortorella said when asked what was reviewed during a video session with the team prior to his media availability. “Plenty. But it will belong to the team in the locker room.”

The Rangers want a cushion. The Devils want to make minor modifications to the way they played Monday night.

Initially the Devils were irritated at losing the series opener to their most despised rival, but upon further reflection they saw a game that they very easily could have — and most likely should have — won if not for some technical mistakes.

“When I look back at the game ... I think it was as much our execution or lack of execution, and whether that was the layoff or whatever, but we have to do a better job executing,” Devils coach Pete DeBoer said during his media availability at The Prudential Center.

“I think we played a great second period. Easily could have had two goals. We didn't find a way to come out of the period with a goal. And, like I said last night, you know, you got the sense that whoever was going to get that first goal was going to win. And they got it.”

The defensive system the Rangers play coupled with Lundqvist make for a team that is very difficult to come back on if it has a lead. The Rangers clogged the neutral and defensive zone after Dan Girardi’s goal, leading to Chris Kreider’s marker that increased the lead to 2-0 and Artem Anisimov’s empty netter with 87 seconds left in the game.

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“It's always nice playing with the lead," Devils captain Zach Parise said. "Every team is for the most part a better team when they have the lead. These guys, they're used to playing low-scoring games. They're comfortable playing low-scoring games. And so are we. We're comfortable. But it would be nice to get that lead."

Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk had first-period breakaway opportunities stymied by Ryan McDonagh backchecks.

Parise was also stoned by Lundqvist during a shorthanded sequence in which he fired three shots at the Rangers’ netminder from under the hashmarks.

“They haven't been scoring a lot of goals throughout the playoffs, but they've been giving up less. So they haven't been giving up much either. So, like I was saying yesterday, the goals from both sides are going to be tough to come by,” Parise said.

Trailing in a series is not unchartered ground for the Devils. New Jersey trailed Florida, 2-1, and Philadelphia, 1-0, in the team's first two series. So they are not sweating the 1-0 hole they find themselves in.

“You're down one game. And they have home ice advantage. And we've been in this spot before. We know we can play better," DeBoer said. "And credit to them. They got the job done. Found a way to get a win. Now it's on us to respond the right way.”

You can follow Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman

Tagged: Devils, Rangers, Henrik Lundqvist, Zach Parise, Ryan Callahan

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