Will Penguins sing Broadway blues'
Despite a 2-0 deficit heading into Game 3 at Madison Square Garden, New York Rangers captain Jaromir Jagr is unfazed by their precarious situation
"They have a 2-0 lead. So what• You have to win four of them," Jagr told the New York media Monday. "We know we can play better than we did out there and I still think it's going to go to conditioning. Games 5 and 6, back-to-back games, can change everything."
For the Eastern Conference semifinal series to go six games, the Rangers would have to win two of the next three, a plausible feat considering how poorly the Penguins played at Madison Square Garden this season. They are 0-3-1, have had fewer than 10 shots in eight of their 12 regulation periods and converted just 1 of 16 power-play opportunities.
"This year, it seems like they've played very well against us in New York," Penguins forward Petr Sykora said. "We played there four times and, did we win• I don't think we did, so it's going to be hard to go in there, but I think, right now, we're playing different hockey and I feel confident we can go in there and steal one."
Winning one of the next two will be a minor miracle if the Penguins' playoff performance at Madison Square Garden mirrors what they did in the regular season.
Necessity dictated the Penguins play three different goaltenders in the four games, but it didn't matter who was between the pipes. The Rangers were held under 30 shots just one time -- in their 2-1 overtime victory against Marc-Andre Fleury on March 31 -- and scored at least four goals the other three times.
Ty Conklin and Dany Sabourin each lost once, while Fleury went 0-1-1.
In addition, New York was 6 for 21 (28.6 percent) on the power play against the Penguins at MSG, including the overtime game-winner by Chris Drury in their last meeting at Madison Square Garden, despite the fact the team only converted on 16.5 percent of their man-advantage opportunities overall.
"I don't think we were really playing a simple game out there," Penguins forward Jordan Staal said. "There's probably a little more distraction than usual and guys were just trying to make plays they probably shouldn't have, especially early in the game, and then we got caught behind a few games. We haven't given our best effort. We know that, and we want to throw a pretty good effort when we get there."
It might help the Penguins' cause if they can take a lead of any kind, something that eluded them in all four regular-season games at MSG. The Rangers have outscored the Penguins, 5-1, in the first period and scored the opening goal each time.
"I think it's huge," Staal said. "The first goal is huge in any game, really. We came back from 3-0 in the first game (of the playoffs), but we know that doesn't happen too often and we want to get off to a good start. The first goal in that building is huge, and we know we want to get the fans out of it and go from there."
Getting a few shots might help. On March 31, the Penguins tied a team record with one shot on goal in the first period of a road game and, in their last three meetings in New York, they averaged only 21.3 shots per game.
Still, the Penguins learned what it was like to play with a lead against the Rangers in Game 2, when Staal opened the scoring with a second- period power-play goal that turned out to be the game-winner. Now, they have to do it at The Garden, where the Rangers have been a stellar 26-14-3 -- including 1-1 in the postseason -- and are backed by a raucous crowd, which is expected to boo center Sidney Crosby's every move.
Down, 2-0 in the series, the Rangers are also desperate.
"It's our building," Jagr said. "We have to make sure we win the game."
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