By Matt Calamia
The Rangers are down just 2-1 in their best-of-seven series against the Pittsburgh Penguins, but head coach Alain Vigneault said tonight’s Game 4 at Madison Square Garden was edging on a must-win for his team.
“Tonight’s game for us is as close as a must-game in my estimation, and probably if you asked our team — we’re down 2-1 here. We need to win tonight,” Vigneault told reporters following his team’s morning skate at The Garden.
Vigneault's estimation makes sense. A win would send the series back to Pittsburgh tied, 2-2; a loss would put the Rangers on the brink of elimination.
The Rangers appear to be optimistic heading into Game 4, and rightfully so. Despite being shutout the last two games, the Rangers had their chances Monday night but had some bad puck luck, hitting several posts.
“We’re in a great position to get this series into a best-of-three, which you’d kind of expect with a good team like this,” said center Brad Richards.
The Blueshirts haven’t scored on Marc-Andre Fleury and the Penguins since Derick Brassard’s winner about three minutes into overtime in Game 1. Despite firing 35 shots on net and getting nothing from them, Richards said he hasn’t thought much about the team’s current drought, and remains positive heading into Game 4.
“I really haven't thought much about … that we haven’t scored,” Richards lamented. “We’ll look at some ways to get more traffic, but that’s the case every time you don’t score or don’t win in the playoffs. You’re always trying to get more traffic, more pucks to the net.”
Vigneaut said that while he feels his team has played well through three games, the fact is the Rangers must find ways to score goals.
“As well as I might think we have played so far, at the end of the day, it’s easy to see we need to finish,” Vigneault said. “We’ve had some great looks, but we’ve got to get it done. We’re down by a game and we’ve got to find a way to make that team pay for some of the mistakes that they make.”
Brassard said he felt the Rangers did a better job in Game 3 than they did in Game 2 in getting pucks on Fleury, and — like Richards — said the team needs to do more to make the goaltender’s job more difficult.
“It’s been two games we didn’t find the back of the net. We need to go more on the inside and put a lot of pucks on him,” Brassard said.
As Vigneault stated after Game 2, Richards said the Rangers will need the Garden crowd behind them, but that it is ultimately up to the players to get the fans into the game.
“We’re going to need them to get behind us. We’re going to need them to ride the momentum. We’re in a great opportunity to win a game and it be a best-of-three to go to the Stanley Cup semi-finals. This is where you can ride your fans and the energy, and that’s what we’re looking for tonight.”