NEW YORK – The hardest part about coming back from a three-games-to-none series deficit is taking it one game at a time.
It’s not about having to win four games in a row – the mountain seems too tall to climb. It’s about winning a game four straight times.
The Rangers won a game Thursday evening at MSG, staving off elimination by winning Game 4 in overtime when Chris Kreider charged to the net and deflected Rick Nash’s centering feed past Tuukka Rask at 7:03 of the overtime session. Game 5 is Saturday at TD Garden.
“There shouldn’t be pressure on us,” said Rangers coach John Tortorella. “We just need to go play. We put ourselves in a hole, and it’s still a big hole, but there shouldn’t be pressure. We should have fun with this. Don’t think about what you have to climb, think about the next game.”
“We just decided that, this is our season here,” said defenseman Dan Girardi. “We had to come with everything we had, we stuck with it, we had the lead a couple times, and didn’t give up. That’s the type of game we need to play if we’re going to keep this series alive.”
It was a night that started problematically for the Rangers and their nervous fanbase when, after a scoreless first period, Nathan Horton put the puck past Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist 4:39 into the second period. When Torey Krug blasted away from the point 3:02 later the Rangers, who hadn’t scored three goals in a game all series, were very much on the brink of elimination.
Less than a minute later, as Carl Hagelin tried shoving the puck towards the net, Rask (28 saves) stepped in a rut in the Madison Square Garden ice, fell to the ground, and was helpless to defend a puck just skittering slowly to the net.
“I just took a step to the side in what I think probably was a skate mark or something,” Rask said. “My skate dug in, that’s what it felt like. I lost my balance, and the rest is history.”
“Probably the ugliest goal I have ever seen turned it around for us, but that’s hockey,” said Lundqvist (37 saves). A save, or a goal, or one shift can change everything. Tonight, it was an ugly goal.”
What followed was a tense, drama-filled third period that saw the Rangers tie the game 75 seconds into the final period, only to watch Tyler Seguin shove home a rebound at 8:06. But Brian Boyle’s power play goal – only the Rangers third power play tally in 42 attempts this postseason – tied the game halfway through the third, and set up Kreider’s heroics.
“Our leaders remained really composed,” Kreider said of the emotion in the Rangers locker room before overtime. “It was a pretty positive atmosphere. Everyone was just excited at the opportunity to try to send it back to Boston.”
“It’s a good group of guys,” Tortorella said of his locker room. “We’re a different team than last year, but they’ve found a way here.”
For Kreider, the game-winning goal was sweet redemption after a season that saw him demoted to the AHL and score only two regular season NHL goals.
“Regardless of how people thought the season went for me, I think I learned a lot,” Kreider said. “I was surrounded by unbelievable players, and unbelievable coaches and staff. I think it was a very positive year for me.”
“Kreids, when I moved him up [to the second line for Game 3], played pretty well until he got hurt,” Tortorella said. “It’s what the lineup was tonight, we’ll see how we approach our next game.”
Kreider’s goal snapped the Rangers’ four-game losing streak in postseason overtime. They were 0-3 this season.
“It’s so surreal. It’s not something that can really be explained, it’s just something that has to be felt,” Kreider said of scoring the overtime winner. “It was awesome and I’m just excited to give these guys an opportunity to play another game.”
Tortorella comes to Richards’ defense
After scratching Brad Richards from the lineup before Game 4, Tortorella issued a passionate defense of his struggling center.
“Don’t put words in my mouth,” Tortorella said, taking over two minutes in his postgame press conference to address the topic. “It’s not blaming Brad Richards, I’ve already heard enough of that crap already. He’s a hell of a hockey player that’s having a hell of a time. So, I need to make decisions for what I feel is right for the team to win tonight’s game, and that’s why I made that decision. This is a Conn Smyth winner, a guy I’ve grown up with, a guy that I love as a person and a player. But I have to make that decision regarding this. Kiss my ass if you want to write something different. It’s not about blaming that guy, and I don’t want anybody to pile on him. It’s my decision, and I make it for the hockey club.”
INSIDE THE RANGERS LOCKER ROOM