Rangers hope MSG return provides boost in vital Game 5

Rangers hope MSG return provides boost in vital Game 5

Artemi Panarin accurately pointed out the Rangers have been in worse positions this postseason, moments after the star winger and his team lost a second straight game to let the Lightning storm back and tie up the Eastern Conference Final series at two games apiece heading into Game 5 at Madison Square Garden on Thursday.

But this isn’t a 3-1 deficit in the first round against the Penguins, or a 2-0 deficit and a Game 7 on the road in the second round against the Hurricanes. A trip to the Stanley Cup Final is on the line.

Even though the Rangers have overcome tougher circumstances in the past month or so, none of them were against Tampa Bay, which has won back-to-back championships. Plus, the Rangers are used to being the team that bulldozes their way back into a series. Now, they’re the team that blew a 2-0 series lead.

Still, the Rangers are staying in the moment and not getting ahead of themselves — as one of the final three teams vying for a chance to hoist Lord Stanley’s Cup.

Rangers hoping to get a boost from the Garden fans in a key Game 5 battle vs. Lightning.
NY Post: Charles Wenzelberg

“I think we’re probably in the best spot we’ve been through three series,” Andrew Copp said before the Rangers traveled back to the New York on Wednesday morning. “We got two games at home. I think we play really good at home. We had probably two good periods and then one not-so-good period and then [Tuesday night]we just couldn’t find a way to break through the neutral zone and get sustained zone time.

“I think we’re all confident where we’re at right now. There’s got to be an increased level of desperation, for sure.”

The pressure at this point in the playoffs is different, but the Rangers are fortunate to have home ice and to need just two more wins to set up a date with the Avalanche in the finals next week. For all the clichés about how the regular season doesn’t matter come the playoffs, the Rangers’ regulation-win total, which served as the tiebreaker with the Lightning for home-ice advantage, could be a deciding factor in this series.

The Rangers haven’t lost at the Garden this postseason since a triple-overtime marathon in Game 1 of Round 1 against the Penguins. Since then, they’ve won eight straight at home while outscoring opponents 38-20. Home ice has been good to the Rangers so far, but there are no guarantees when it comes to the Lightning.

Andrew Copp, whose shot in Game 4 was stopped by Andrei Vasilevskiy, said he is hoping the Rangers can get a lift by returning home for Game 5.
Andrew Copp, whose shot in Game 4 was stopped by Andrei Vasilevskiy, said he is hoping the Rangers can get a lift by returning home for Game 5.
Corey Sipkin

“It’s a crowd that anytime things are going well, they’re behind you and kind of increasing that momentum and snowballing a little bit,” Copp said. “When things aren’t going well, as soon as you get any sign of life, they can really push you in the right direction. I think that’s part of it. Matchups is probably part of it. It’s probably somewhat mental, just in terms of the home teams are supposed to win in general and that’s why you have the better record in the regular season to have home ice.”

Rangers head coach Gerard Gallant once said he doesn’t believe home ice matters until Game 7, and his team could have that opportunity if they’re able to win one of the next two games.

But the Rangers are going to need more resiliency than they exhibited while winning three straight elimination games in the first round against the Penguins. They’ll need more perseverance than they used to erase a 2-0 series deficit and then win Game 7 over a previously undefeated home team in the second round against the Hurricanes.

The Rangers are just going to need more to get past the Lightning.

“I’m not worried about them building,” Gallant said after the Game 4 loss. “I’m hoping it’s going to be a homer series. That’s what it looks like so far. We were pretty good in our building. They were pretty good in their building. So, that’s what I see so far.”

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