Rangers confident despite 0-2 deficit
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Minutes after falling into a two-game hole against the Penguins, the New York Rangers heard a siren call from Madison Square Garden a couple states away.
"We just have to go back home," goaltender Henrik Lundqvist said after he stopped 30 of 31 shots in yesterday's 2-0 loss at Mellon Arena.
"We still feel confident. We can beat this team. We want to go back home, get two wins and come back here and the pressure's on them. We'll go back to New York, feel good about ourselves and get two wins."
It was a strategy that worked -- to a degree -- a year ago, when the Rangers were in a similar situation.
They lost Games 1 and 2 at Buffalo in the second round of the playoffs, then went home and beat the Sabres twice in a row.
"Let's not forget we were down, 2-0, to Buffalo last year going back to MSG, where we were pretty good this year," Rangers coach Tom Renney said.
What he neglected to mention was that despite coming back to tie the series against Buffalo with consecutive home wins, the Rangers lost Games 5 and 6 in that series, including a 5-4 decision at home that clinched it for the Sabres.
The Rangers have been dominant at Madison Square Garden over the past 14 or so months -- at least in the regular season.
Starting March 17, 2007, they have gone 30-13-3 at home in the regular season while outscoring opponents, 130-94, and limiting them to 2.02 goals a game. During 2007-08, the Rangers were 4-0, with one win coming in overtime, over the Penguins at home.
It's not quite so cozy in the playoffs, where New York is 4-5 in postseason games, dating to 2006, when it broke a seven-year playoff drought. It was 1-1 with three road wins during a five-game series with New Jersey in the first round.
By failing to at least split the first two games of their second-round series against the Penguins, the Rangers put themselves in a position of having to win at least one game at Mellon Arena if they are to advance to the Eastern Conference final. They blew a 3-0 lead in Game 1 and lost, 5-4, Friday.
"I was hoping we could get one here, but that's OK," New York captain Jaromir Jagr said. "We're going to play two at home and we'll see what happens.
"There's a lot more games. It's not over."
They will have to stop the Penguins, who are the only undefeated team this postseason at 6-0.
"We really felt we could get ourselves back in the series, and we still do," Renney said.
"As much as it might have been a bit of an improvement, our game is not where it needs to be in order to win the series.
"We have some things to build on. The big thing is to create some momentum of our own and really take this series back."
That will require goals, and New York hasn't had one in about 31/2 periods of play.
Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 26 shots to earn the shutout for the Penguins in Game 2.
"We feel like we had some good chances -- Fleury made some good saves -- but when you come out of a game without getting any goals, you have to do more," Rangers center Chris Drury said. "You have to generate more. You have to finish."
New York was 0 for 6 on the power play yesterday and is 1 for 9 through the two games.
Jagr had what was probably his team's best scoring chance at 8:32 of the second period.
He took a drop pass from linemate and fellow former Penguin Marty Straka near the top of the slot, then challenged Fleury by holding onto the puck as he moved to the left side of the net. Fleury got his right leg pad out to make the save on the shot that finally came.
"He's such a skill guy with great hands, so I just tried to wait as much as I could to not make that first move," Fleury said.
A little more than five minutes later, Jordan Staal's power-play goal gave the Penguins a 1-0 lead. It stayed that way until Adam Hall added an empty-netter in the final minute.
"It was a totally different game from Game No. 1," Jagr said. "Both teams played better defense. There were not many scoring chances besides some power plays.
"They scored a power play goal. Five minutes before that, we started getting some chances. I'm not saying it was a lucky goal, but that was the difference."
Now the Rangers are hoping a return to Manhattan will be the difference.
"It's over," center Scott Gomez said of the first two games here. "They kept their home ice; we've got to keep ours."
First Published April 28, 2008 12:00 am