Rangers look­ing to re­group at home

The Commercial Appeal - - Sports - SIMMI BUTTAR

NEW YORK - Sid­ney Crosby and the de­fend­ing cham­pion Pen­guins have looked im­pres­sive in jump­ing out to a 2-0 lead against the Blue Jack­ets.

The same is true for the Blues, who have earned a pair of 2-1 vic­to­ries on the road for a two-game edge over Min­nesota with the se­ries shift­ing to St. Louis.

And the Rangers were 18 sec­onds away from join­ing them un­til To­mas Plekanec tied Game 2 late in the third pe­riod be­fore Alexander Radulov won it for the Cana­di­ens to tie that se­ries at a game apiece go­ing into Game 3 at Madi­son Square Gar­den on Sun­day night.

“Ev­ery time you win you kind of change the mo­men­tum,” Plekanec said Fri­day night. “You feel bet­ter about your­self and your game.

“But it’s just one game. We have to get bet­ter be­cause we haven’t played a great game yet.”

While the Cana­di­ens have the mo­men­tum, the Rangers must re­group at home, where they have strug­gled at times this sea­son.

Goalie Hen­rik Lundqvist was busy Fri­day night, when he had a play­off ca­reer-high 54 saves for New York.

“We had stretches where they came re­ally hard and made it tough for us,” Lundqvist said. “They did a good job of keep­ing pucks in tonight and that’s where we got hurt.

“We had a cou­ple of times to get the puck out and they worked hard to keep them in. That’s where they cre­ated their sec­ond and third chances.”

As the Blue Jack­ets look to get back in their se­ries, they will be with­out for­ward Matt Calvert, who was sus­pended one game by the league for his cross-check to Pitts­burgh’s Tom Kuhn­hackl late in the third pe­riod.

Calvert had re­ceived a mi­nor penalty for cross-check­ing on Fri­day when he chased down Kuhn­hackl away from the play and hit the Pen­guins for­ward in the head with his stick, which broke in the process. The NHL De­part­ment of Play­ers Safety handed down the sus­pen­sion Satur­day. ——— Wild at Blues, St. Louis leads 2-0 (2 p.m., NBC)

Frus­tra­tion be­gan to creep into the Min­nesota Wild’s play dur­ing a 2-1 loss to St. Louis at home in Game 2, on the heels of a 2-1 de­feat in over­time in Game 1, when they out­shot the Blues 52-26.

The Wild man­aged only 24 at­tempts on tar­get in Game 2 against a sim­i­larly sti­fling Blues de­fense, but in try­ing to cre­ate en­ergy, luck and mo­men­tum, they be­gan to stray from their iden­tity.

“Quite frankly, I think we were run­ning out of the way try­ing to hit guys too much,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “We didn’t do that for 82 games. I don’t know why we’re start­ing now.”

There’s al­ways the temp­ta­tion to try a dif­fer­ent ap­proach in this sce­nario, search­ing for a spark on the road with the Blues half­way to win­ning the se­ries.

But the Wild re­al­ize they’re bet­ter off con­tin­u­ing to use their speed, depth and face­off dom­i­nance to­ward the scor­ing chances that were in abun­dance over the first two games only to be thwarted by goalie Jake Allen.

The key will be find­ing smarter or time­lier ways to at­tack against the packed-in de­fense of the Blues that con­tin­u­ally clogs the prime shoot­ing lanes.

“This is a group that still chal­lenges you,” Blues coach Mike Yeo said. “That’s still tough. They’ve still got a lot of play­ers over there, and the way they throw pucks at the net, it’s chal­leng­ing. But we’re dig­ging in on it, and so far we’ve been good at it.” ——— Pen­guins at Blue Jack­ets, Pitts­burgh leads 2-0 (5 p.m., CNBC)

Crosby had a goal and two as­sists and Marc-An­dre Fleury made 39 saves in Game 2. Fleury is ex­pected to make his club-record 103rd play­off ap­pear­ance on Sun­day.

The Pen­guins also blocked 23 shots to frus­trate Colum­bus.

De­spite the deficit, Blue Jack­ets coach John Tor­torella likes the ag­gres­sive play and is ea­ger to get home to Colum­bus.

“I think we did a lot of the things we wanted to do,” Tor­torella said. “I’m proud of our club, the way they’ve han­dled them­selves.

“They did all the things we’re ask­ing them to do.” ——— Cana­di­ens at Rangers, Se­ries tied 1-1 (6 p.m., NBCSN)

Be­ing tied 1-1 in a se­ries is noth­ing new for the Rangers.

They have split the first two games of a play­off se­ries in each of their past five play­off se­ries, go­ing back to the start of the 2015 play­offs.

For­ward Michael Grab­ner has scored in both games of the se­ries and missed on a break­away at­tempt in the third pe­riod Fri­day night that could have made it 4-2.

The Rangers were not overly con­cerned about be­ing out­shot 58-38 in Game 2.

“They threw a lot of pucks at our net, but I don’t think there were too many chances. We did a pretty good job,” Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said Fri­day night. ——— Oil­ers at Sharks, Se­ries tied 1-1 (9 p.m., NBCSN)

The Oil­ers didn’t get more dis­ci­plined in Game 2, they just per­formed far bet­ter when short-handed. If the Sharks are go­ing to re­gain the lead in this se­ries, they will have to make Ed­mon­ton pay for its phys­i­cal play.

San Jose got a mo­men­tum-chang­ing power-play goal from its sec­ond unit to start a Game 1 comeback, then came up empty on all six chances with the man ad­van­tage in Game 2.

Mak­ing mat­ters even worse, the Oil­ers scored the only two goals of the game with San Jose on the power play. Zack Kas­sian and Connor McDavid each scored short-handed goals to help tie the se­ries. “You can’t over­re­act to that,” Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said.

RYAN REMIORZ/THE CANA­DIAN PRESS VIA AP

Rangers goalie Hen­rik Lundqvist makes a save against the Montreal Cana­di­ens dur­ing Game 1 their first-round play­off se­ries Wed­nes­day in Montreal.

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