Typically, a team that was shut out in their biggest game of the season would invoke words of anger and frustration into their postgame remarks. But not these Rangers, who spoke words of confidence as they looked toward game six, where they’ll face elimination. That’s because they’ve been here before.
Last year, they became the first team to rally down 3-1 in a series while also trailing in each elimination game, ousting the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round. One series later, they overcame deficits of 2-0 and 3-2 to unseat the top-seeded Carolina Hurricanes, winning game seven 6-2, serving the Canes their first and only home loss of the postseason in eight contests.
“Got to win one game. Got to go home”, Chris Kreider told the New York Post. “We’ve had a terrific fan base all year; we let them, we let ourselves down at home. ”
“The playoffs are comprised of highs and lows, and we’re at a low point right now. If we can’t climb out of this, we don’t deserve to go on a deep run.”
If they want to earn a ticket on the next subway to a high point, the Rangers stars need to shine. Panarin is an $11.6 million player who, fresh off a 92-point season, has only two in this postseason. But as he showed by scoring the overtime winner in game seven against Pittsburgh last Spring, all you need is one all-time moment for people to forget you had one of the worst series of your career.
The $8.5 million Zibanejad paced the Blueshirts in the regular season with 39 goals yet hasn’t found the back of the twine in the postseason. Even former Conn Smyth winner Patrick Kane and Stanley Cup champion Vladimir Tarasenko, who both requested trades to Broadway at the deadline for possibly one last run at a Stanley Cup, must produce.
They met the moment in the first two games, as Tarasenko scored twice and Kane had three points in game two. But they’ve cooled since then. Kane was even demoted to the third line, on Thursday, while Kaapo Kakko replaced him on the second unit.
The Rangers will also need the “Kid Line”, comprising former first-overall pick Alexis Lafreniere, the freshly extended Filip Chytil, and the second-overall pick Kakko to finally convert on the abundance of scoring chances they’ve had in this series.
Then again, it may not matter if Schmid, who made 23 saves with a +2.46 Goals Saved Above Expected and recorded the first playoff shutout by a Devils goaltender since Martin Brodeur in 2012, continues to make acrobatic saves with his glove like he did robbing Kakko, in the first period.
Defensively, they’ll need a bone-crunching hit from their $8 million captain Jacob Trouba, and $9.5 million Adam Fox, a former Norris Trophy winner, to revive the offensive greatness that saw him record six assists in the first two games of the series.
“Gotta find a way to win Game 6,” Trouba told the Athletic. “That’s all there is at this point. It’s on to the next game. Find a way to win a game.”
“We’ve got to get pucks behind them. You can’t be stubborn with how you play. You have to play the game in front of you. You can’t force pucks at the blue line and red line and turn it over. That’s not a recipe to win against that team.”
Should they play the right way, reigning Vezina-winner Igor Shesterkin will take care of the rest. The goaltender made 39 saves in the loss, yelled at his bench to “Do your job,” and even recorded a shot on goal from 180 feet away. He did everything he could to keep this from being a massacre. The only one who responded was Barclay Goodrow, who dropped the gloves with Kevin Bahl in the second period.
“The effort’s there,” Gallant said. “We’ve been in this position before. See what we can do, go back home on Saturday, rally the troops, and get it going”.
In a Madison Square Garden ready to embrace the New York Knicks being in the second round for the first time in ten years on Sunday afternoon, the Rangers must show they still exist. They must show they possess the resilience, fight, and determination that New Yorkers are known for. Ultimately, they need to show why their mantra is theirs “No Quit In New York.” So far, all we’ve learned is, theirs is No Quit In New Jersey.
BLS FAN COMMENT OF THE NIGHT:
“The forecheck that was so successful in the first two games was non-existent. When they gave up that first goal, they opened up and that is a death sentence against the Devils’ speed. They didn’t draw any penalties (only 2)…didn’t outwork them in the offensive zone. They need to make some changes and fast. They would have been better off playing the same defensive game they did in 3 & 4, allowing only two goals each game…then they get a break and can win a close game. But they are not giving Schmid anything to worry about.”-Steve Paulus
WHAT THEY SAID:
“It was a long, terrible road that led Devils fans here.
Now, the team is one win away from not only winning its first playoff round since 2012, but they are about to do it against the New York Rangers. In the time since the Devils beat the Rangers in that faithful series, the team wearing blue and white made it to another Conference Final and a Stanley Cup Final, told their fans they were going to rebuild, did it with quickness, and made it to yet another Eastern Conference Final last season. There’s been plenty of success at MSG over the past 10 years. That would make a Devils series win over the Rangers that much sweeter. It’s taken so long to get here. We don’t want to count our chickens before they hatch. Just a week ago, the Rangers had a 2-0 series lead. Just getting here has been so amazing. Now, it’s time to go back to Madison Square Garden to finish the job. -Nick Vilano, Pucks, And Pitchforks.