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Rangers rely on Game 6 playoff resilience to extend Eastern Finals

TAMPA – The New York Rangers arrived here on Friday with a fresh look at their position in the Eastern Conference Finals, despite being less than 24 hours away from feeling the world surrounds them.

The Rangers lost 3-1 to the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 5 at Madison Square Garden Thursday and fell 2-3 in the best-of-7 series.

Game 6 takes place Saturday at the Amalie Arena (8 p.m. ET; ESPN, ESPN+, CBC, SN, TVAS).

“You lose the game last night, you go home and you want to jump over the bridge,” said Rangers coach Gerard Gallant. “You feel bad about it. It’s a tough game that could have gone either way. It happens. This morning you wake up and you come back and you say, ‘We have a big game tomorrow, we’re going to Tampa.’ And you say, “Well, we’re in a pretty good position. There’s three teams left in the NHL playoffs and we’re one of them.” “You have to be happy with it. You have to see it on the bright side. You have to prepare for another game. You can’t put your head down and worry about last night because then you are.” are ready.

“You get on the plane at 12 and that was the end of last night.”

That kind of perspective comes from experience that Rangers have gleaned aplenty from back in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Game 6 will mark the sixth time this postseason that they will be eliminated. They are 5-0 so far, including 2-0 on the road.

In the first round, they trailed 3-1 to the Pittsburgh Penguins. In the second round they lost 3-2 to the Carolina Hurricanes.

“We all play hockey because we’re extremely competitive people and we love a challenge and we love the difficulty that comes with playing the game,” said the Rangers forward Barclay Goodrow said. “No matter where you are in the series, if you watch it, it’s just a game. You cannot control anything beyond this game. You can’t control anything that happened before in this series. All we have to focus on is go and win a game. Especially our group plays our best when we are having fun, cheering each other on and being good teammates. Just go out and play the game, that’s kind of what happened. We fell back on the first few rounds and it did the job for us. It’s all about winning a game. It’s nothing crazy.”

[Complete Rangers vs. Lightning series coverage]

However, it is a challenge.

The Lightning are the two-time defending champions of the Stanley Cup. They are 3-1 if they have a chance to eliminate an opponent in Game 6 of a series since the start of the 2020 playoffs. They reached Game 7 with just two of their 10 straight wins.

Andrei Vasilyevsky has an NHL-record six shutouts in potential series-win games and has conceded one goal in his last three games.

Simply put, Tampa Bay is just a different beast than Pittsburgh and Carolina right now.

“But honestly, we have complete faith in our group,” Goodrow said. “We feel like if we do our best we have our chances. No matter what [Vasilevskiy’s] Say numbers or what their team numbers are, it comes down to playing our game and doing our best and having a good time at it.

Rangers haven’t had much fun in their last three games, all losing by a combined 10-4 after winning Games 1 and 2 by a combined 9-4.

Since they scored eight goals in their first two games, they have equalized.

Gallant said he’s considering making some tactical changes for Game 6.

He changed the lineup in Game 5 to get more speed in the forward group and scratched Ryan Reaves and leave Kevin Rooney although Ryan Strome came back. Rooney moved into the lineup in Game 4 because Strome’s lower body injury prevented him from playing.

But the Rangers still managed only 25 shots on goal and could not use their speed to generate chances from the rush, their bread and butter.

That will be a focus for how they plan to attack the Blitz in Game 6.

“Just be a little faster in everything we do,” Mitte Mika Zibanejad said. “If they get into their structure, they’re good. We just have to try and find a way to play a little bit faster, a little bit further north. That was basically our game all year.”

That means Zibanejad needs to start winning the matchup he and his linemates have, Chris Kreider and Frank Vatranowill face the whole game.

The second line of The Lightning Anthony Cirelli, Brandon Hagel and Alex Killorn has effectively shut down Zibanejad’s line in the last three games in 5-on-5 games.

“This is a new opportunity,” said Zibanejad. “It will obviously be a challenge, but a fun one. Talk about it, enjoy it, I don’t think anyone would think it would be that much fun if it wasn’t a challenge if it wasn’t tough if you don’t go through those ups and downs. It’s another test for us. We just have to be prepared for it.

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