Following his team's dramatic 4-3 overtime victory in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Semifinals on Thursday night, Rangers head coach John Tortorella said all he and his team spoke about prior to that game was earning the opportunity to board a plane on Friday to play a fifth game up in Boston on Saturday. Chris Kreider's overtime goal landed the Rangers their first win in this best-of-seven, helped the Blueshirts stave off playoff elimination, and put the Rangers on that flight to Boston for another must-win contest Saturday at TD Garden while still facing post-season extinction with one more defeat.
This Rangers team seems to relish having their backs up against the wall. They are now 3-0 when facing elimination in the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs, and 6-1 in such games over the past two years. And Thursday night they created an even more precarious situation, not only trailing 3-0 in their series with the Bruins, but falling behind on the scoreboard 2-0 in the second period of Game Four---and then again 3-2 in the third period---before rallying for a thrilling victory.
Now they have the opportunity to play---and win one more game---and a chance to throw a scare into the Bruins should this series head back to Madison Square Garden on Monday night with the Rangers having narrowed the gap and only trailing 3-2 in the series. But to get to that point the Rangers will need a more complete effort against a Bruins team that most definitely will be looking to finish New York off. The Rangers had an extremely slow start to Game Four, something they can not afford to duplicate on Saturday because the Bruins firmly feel they did not even play that well in running out to a 2-0 lead. The Bruins feel they have a much better game in themselves in Game Five than what they showed in Game Four, so the Rangers need to exceed that urgency and effort.
The Rangers really have not played a complete game yet. They have either faltered late---like in Games One and Two---or gotten off to slow starts---In Games Three and Four. What the Rangers need is a passionate and complete 60-minute performance in Game Five, and then maybe, just maybe, they can bring this series back home to The Garden.
By the looks of practice on Friday, the Rangers will us the same 20 players that dressed in Game Four, meaning that Brad Richards, Arron Asham and injured defenseman Anton Stralman likely all will not play, while Kris Newbury, Micheal Haley, and Roman Hamrlik should remain in the lineup. Tortorella liked what his revamped fourth line consisting of Newbury, Haley, and Derek Dorsett gave the team from a rugged, physical perspective. And the elevation of Kreider to play alongside Rick Nash certainly paid benefits all night long---not the least of which coming on the overtime winning goal where Nash set up Kreider.
Centers Derek Stepan and Derick Brassard swapped linemates in the middle of Game Four---Tortorella was seeking a spark---and both responded with two-point performances. Stepan scored a goal and earned an assist, and Brassard tallied two assists. Brassard now leads the Rangers with 12 points (2-10-12) in 11 playoff games, while Stepan has scored a team-high four goals.
The Bruins may get veteran defenseman Dennis Seidenberg back from injury on Saturday. If he does return, rookie Dougie Hamilton---beaten by a streaking Kreider on the game-deciding goal Thursday---likely would come out of the lineup for Boston. Fellow rookie defenseman Torey Krug will most definitely remain in the lineup. He now has three goals and an assist in four games in this series, after scoring in the second period on Thursday.
Thursday's win was the Rangers' first in four overtime games this post-season, and the Blueshirts now have won three of their last seven playoff overtime games. The Bruins are 3-1 in four overtime games this post-season.
The only road victory for the Rangers during this post-season was facing elimination in Game Seven of their first round series with Washington. The Rangers are just 1-5 on the road this spring.
Three of the four games in this series have been decided by one goal, including the last two, and two of which were decided in overtime.
Will the Rangers keep their season alive and force a Game 6 back at The Garden on Monday? Share your predictions below.