- Pierre LeBrun, NHL
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TAMPA, Fla. -- The kings of the comeback need to pull one out of the hat.
With a remarkable 14-3 record in elimination games since 2012, including a rally from a 3-1 series deficit to the Washington Capitals in the previous round, the New York Rangers have to do it again, down 3-2 in the Eastern Conference finals to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
"We’ve had a number of games where it’s win or go home," Rangers veteran defenseman Marc Staal said Monday, after the team arrived in Florida. "We have a lot of guys in our room that thrive in a situation like that, where you have to be at your best to win a hockey game.
"We’re a tough out."
They’re a tough out because they’re a veteran team that doesn’t panic. That will be needed again Tuesday night at Amalie Arena.
"Our players focus in the right areas, stay in the moment," New York head coach Alain Vigneault said. "We’ve obviously been in a few of these situations in the past, and I’m very confident that our group is going to enjoy the opportunity, enjoy the challenge."
Who knows, perhaps the more experienced Rangers can take advantage of a young Lightning team that might be a little giddy about being so close to a Stanley Cup finals berth, which would be a first for most of the players on that team and certainly all the kids.
On the other hand, these Bolts continue to surprise, with a Ranger-like, shutdown performance in Game 5 at MSG that, if the Blueshirts were truly honest, completely surprised New York.
"Yeah, I would say that’s more the way we like to play -- closer games, low-scoring games," Rangers winger Carl Hagelin said.
"They were cheating a little less on the offense," Staal said. "When we got our chances to score. They had numbers back in the zone. They were collapsing in front of their own net, taking lanes away and blocking shots, a little more so than they have earlier on in the series. It made it more difficult to get one by [Ben] Bishop."
While the Lightning got a big power-play goal from Steven Stamkos to take a 2-0 lead in Game 5, a back-breaking tally in the second period, the Rangers went 0-for-4 with the man advantage after having gone 6-for-13 in the three previous games.
The power play has had an impact every night of this series.
"Special teams have been key in every game so far," said Hagelin, a Rangers penalty killer. "We have to focus on playing better on the [penalty kill]. That’s what it comes down to. If we can make sure they don’t get a goal on their [power play], we’re going to have a good chance."
The season can end with a loss Tuesday. It’s a familiar backdrop for the Rangers.
"For us, it’s a matter of, we’ve been through it before," Hagelin said. "We have great guys in the locker room. We know what it takes. For us, we have to play the best game we’ve played so far in the playoffs.
"Whatever happens tomorrow, we just need to bring it."
The Rangers have shown many times this season that they won't give up because they are down in a series.