The New York Rangers ditched the playoff hockey mindset and went back to their strengths as they defeated the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday, to even the First Round series at two games apiece.
The mentality was clear right from the beginning after head coach Alain Vigneault decided to insert rookie, Pavel Buchnevich into the lineup replacing Tanner Glass.
“Tonight it was important to play at a high pace,” Vigneault explained. “To do that, I believe you have to be able to roll four lines. By making that subtle little move there we were able to do that.”
Blueshirt Bullet Points
1) After an embarrassing performance in Game 3, the Blueshirts were able to snap a six-game home playoff losing streak by competing for a full 60 minutes, and playing one of their smartest games in a long time.
2) “The guys were playing on their toes,” captain Ryan McDonagh said. “They wanted to compete, wanted to battle and wanted the puck on their sticks. We proved to ourselves now that there’s no reason we can’t play like this every time. We have to in order to continue playing here. It’s a matter of backing up this win.”
3) “There is a difference between working hard and working smart,” Brady Skjei said. “I thought tonight we worked smart. We made the play when it was there. We played a pull 60-minute game.”
4) The Canadiens were only able to register 24 shots on goal, many of which came from the outside. Brendan Smith has played his best hockey since joining the Blueshirts at the trade deadline and has improved each time he has stepped onto the ice. He has done this despite being viciously slashed on the wrist by Alexander Radulov and was clipped with a shoulder/high-stick in the final few minutes.
5) But the pairing of Smith and Skjei would not allow AV to bench them in the final minutes, forcing the bench boss to roll four lines and six defensemen throughout the entire contest.
6) With less than two minutes remaining, Mika Zibanejad was selected to take a key defensive faceoff. No. 93 statistically is the team’s best faceoff man, but not the most reliable defensively. If you needed to put a center on the rink for a critical draw in your own end, would he be your choice?
7) Zibanejad has not had a great series by any stretch, but he did mention postgame that he reached out to McDonagh to seek advice on the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
8) Zibanejad was reunited with Chris Kreider and Buchnevich, a line that played very well together in the preseason and beginning of the year.
9) “For him (Buchnevich) to come in like he did was impressive and helped me and Kreider as well, “Zibanejad said. “We moved the puck well, were skating and created some offense. The only thing missing was a goal.”
10) For the Rangers need to be successful, they need to break old habits of playing “playoff hockey” and stick to their strengths. Expect the lineup to remain the same for Game 5.
11) “Never in a playoff series are you comfortable,” Stepan said. “Now we go to Montreal and we got a three-game series now.”