Rangers find selves in series hole once again hoping to repeat magic of past

Note: if you purchase something through one of our affiliate links, Schneps Media may earn a commission.
New Jersey Devils goaltender Akira Schmid (40) stops a shot by New York Rangers’ Mika Zibanejad (93) during the second period of Game 5 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup first-round playoff series Thursday, April 27, 2023, in Newark, N.J.
AP Photo/Frank Franklin II

NEWARK — Down 3-2 in the series headed back to Madison Square Garden on Saturday is far from the position the Rangers expected to be in. But that’s the reality of the situation after dropping Game 5 to the Devils and facing the possibility of their season coming to an end much earlier than expected. 

Still, the Rangers didn’t seem to be panicking after Thursday night’s 4-0 shutout loss. Perhaps that was because the Rangers have been in this position before during last year’s surprise run to the conference final. 

They trailed the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-1 in the first round last year and won three straight games to take the series in seven. The Rangers followed it up with two straight wins in Game 6 and Game 7 in the second round against Carolina to come back from a 3-2 series deficit. 

Once again in a similar position, the Rangers are looking to those experiences once again.

“It’s the first to four wins. We’ve been in this spot before,” Adam Fox said. “We didn’t want to put ourselves in this position, but yeah. We’re going back to MSG. Obviously, we like playing there. We had success last year, obviously, we didn’t take care of business earlier, but a good opportunity for us here.”

Thursday night was the first time either team had won on their home ice, with the Devils taking the last two games in Manhattan. Gerard Gallant had ripped the Rangers’ effort after their Game 4 loss on Monday night at the Garden, but seemed more at peace with how the team played on Thursday. 

New York Rangers goaltender Igor Shesterkin (31) dives for the puck shot by New Jersey Devils’ Erik Haula (56) for a goal during the second period of Game 5 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup first-round playoff series Thursday, April 27, 2023, in Newark, N.J.AP Photo/Frank Franklin II

Despite the lopsided score, Gallant said that he saw improvement in the Rangers’ play through the 60-minute contest. 

“There was a lot more guys around the net,” Gallant said. (Devils’ goaltender Akira Schmid) made a great save there on (Kaapo Kakko) on the short side with the rebound play. So I thought we had a lot more traffic around the net and did a lot of things better. It wasn’t good enough, obviously.”

New York was still outshot by New Jersey 43-23, but the Rangers did hold an edge in scoring chances for during five-on-five play, according to Natural Stat Trick, 24-19. However, in terms of high-danger chances the Devils held the advantage 16-9. 

 Generating more chances seemed to be the theme the Rangers focused on while trying to decipher the latest loss in the opening-round series.

“I think not many shifts we had good sustained O-zone, I think that’s the key,” Fox said. “I think early on (in the series) we weren’t feeling their offense as much and today it kind of seemed like we were. Just got to go back and win Game 6.”

For more  Rangers news, turn to AMNY.com