NEW YORK, N.Y. – The train ride back from Philadelphia after the New York Rangers’ one-goal loss to the Flyers in Game 4 wasn’t all that long, yet long enough for them to shake off the disappointment.
At least that is what they said the day after.
“It’s gone now,” goalie Henrik Lundqvist proclaimed Saturday of the 2-1 defeat that tied the series 2-2.
“On the way home it was disappointing, and you try to learn something and come up with something that will help you moving forward, but then you let it go.”
The Metropolitan Division rivals will get right back at it Sunday at noon in the pivotal Game 5 at Madison Square Garden, where the clubs split the opening two games. They split again in Philadelphia, and neither team has won two straight.
Someone will be facing elimination on Tuesday in Game 6 back in Philadelphia. If the series is stretched to the limit, the deciding game will be Wednesday in New York.
“You try not to think too much about the consequences,” Lundqvist said. “You just try to focus on your game and what you have to do, and enjoy it, tell yourself that it’s fun, because it is—when you’re winning.”
While the Rangers have lost 11 straight games when leading a series, they have come out OK recently in series that were tied 2-2.
Four of New York’s previous five matchups have been squared after four games, but although the Rangers went only 1-3 in those Game 5s they won three of four series.
The Rangers have also come out on top in six of the past nine series in which they were tied 2-2, dating to the 1992 Patrick Division semifinals against New Jersey.
“It’s a pivotal game regardless of the outcome,” forward Brian Boyle said.
New York was stymied on Friday by Steve Mason, who made 37 saves in his first start in 13 days following what was believed to be a concussion. He played the final 7-plus minutes in relief of Ray Emery in the Rangers’ Game 3 win before getting the starting nod from coach Craig Berube.
It was Mason’s first NHL playoff victory, and the Rangers expect to test him even more Sunday.
“The teams that win Cups are the teams that have that urgency all the time,” New York forward Brad Richards said. “It’s impossible to have Game 1 like a Game 7. I have never seen it.
“I don’t think we went out and laid an egg (Friday) … but we didn’t win, so it’s not good enough. We get right back (Sunday). We don’t have too much time to think about it, so that’s good.”
The Rangers pressured Mason early, and took a brief 1-0 lead in the first period when they held a 16-6 edge in shots. But that was the only scoring for New York, which failed on all four power plays.
“We can dissect this all we want,” Richards said. “We played a pretty good hockey game. That’s good for us. Our 5-on-5 game is coming, and I thought we controlled a lot of play. There has got to be more. There are 100 ways to lose a hockey game.”
Richards said the team spent a large portion of Saturday morning before an optional on-ice practice working on ways to improve the power play that went 3-for-12 in the first two games but is 0-for-8 since.
He credited the Flyers for making improvements to their penalty-killing and changing things up.
“We’ve definitely got to get some different things, different looks,” Richards said. “They are blocking more shots, their lanes are a lot different. Now it’s our turn to up that and make them adjust again and try to score a goal.”
The Flyers will have a new look on defence on Sunday when defenceman Nick Grossmann sits out because of a right knee injury sustained in Game 4. Berube didn’t announce who would play in his place, but veteran Hal Gill was alongside defenceman Mark Streit throughout practice Saturday.
The 39-year-old Gill played in only six games this season and has yet to appear in this series.
“This is what I’ve been working to do,” said Gill, who has played in 110 career playoff games in 16 NHL seasons. “I’ve had it in my head over and over again. It will be nice to have it come to fruition on Sunday.
“We’ve got a guy banged up. If he can’t play, that’s what I’ve been working for.”
The team that has scored first in the four games has lost three of them—only the Rangers in Game 3 bucked the trend. The Flyers came back from an 0-2 deficit to win Game 2, the only time in four tries this season they have won in New York.
Philadelphia rallied in the third period to win 11 times during the season.
“It’s not the ideal situation,” Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds said. “Ideally, you’d like to play with the lead. It’s a best-of-three series now, so we’ve got to make sure we’re smart and we’re coming out strong.”