"I Have A Lot Of Optimism For Tomorrow Night"

Jim Cerny


Saying Tuesday that "out of the first nine periods against Pitt, there are 7+ I really have liked", Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault spoke of his optimism heading into Wednesday's Game Four of his team's second-round playoff series with the Pittsburgh Penguins, despite trailing the Penguins two games to one and having been shut out in back-to-back games Sunday and Monday.

"Our most important game is tomorrow," stated Vigneault during a conference call on the team's day off Tuesday after having played five games in the previous seven days. "The fact that we were able to put such a strong game on the ice (Monday) gives me a lot of optimism tomorrow. I understand we didn't score and we didn't finish those opportunities, but I believe with this day off here, our execution might be a bit better tomorrow. I am going in there with a lot of confidence, and I'm sure our players feel the same way."

After being held to 22 shots on goal in Sunday's 3-0 loss in Pittsburgh and seeing the Penguins dominate the game territorially, the Rangers had the far better of the action during Monday's 2-0 defeat at The Garden. The Rangers outshot Pittsburgh 35-15 and outchanced the Penguins by a large amount, ut just could not find a way to solve goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury.

"They're a good team, a team that defends well, and we saw yesterday when they get a couple of opportunities they can make you pay," Vigneault said of the Penguins. "We know it's a challenge, and it's going to take our best game, and that's what we're trying to put on the ice. I don't sense any frustration on our part."

Along with being blanked as a team in each of the last two games, the Rangers power play is 0-for-13 in this series and on an 0-for-34 slide in the playoffs. Several of the team's top guns have gone cold, too, with Rick Nash without a goal in the post-season, Ryan McDonagh without a single point in the playoffs, and both Derek Stepan and Martin St. Louis without a point in five consecutive games.

"We have to stick with it because we are doing a lot of good things," offered the head coach. "Those pucks will start going in, especially when you're talking about someone with the skill that (Nash) has."


When asked about his three lineup changes yesterday, Vigneault seemed pleased with the play of each player that was inserted into the lineup: Raphael Diaz, J.T. Miller, and Jesper Fast.

"They were good for us last night," stated Vigneault. "I think with (all three) we got what we expected from them. Diaz gave us a different look on the power play. It didn't score, but it have some better looks. I liked Miller's and Fast's games, both brought us some good energy."

Diaz led the team with six shots on goal while playing 19:30. Miller logged 11:34 and was credited with three hits. Fast played 8:38, was a minus one, was credited with three hits, and was bloodied in the mouth when high-sticked by James Neal in the first period.