NEW YORK — Practice for the New York Rangers went from optional to mandatory. Their attitude shifted from agitated to optimistic.
For the third straight series, the Eastern Conference's top-seeded team is even through four games, and each time New York has headed into Game 5 off the disappointment of a loss that would have given the Rangers a commanding 3-1 edge.
The negative view would be that they can't handle prosperity. The positive outlook is that the Rangers have a knack of bouncing back. After all, they advanced from this spot in the opening two rounds with Game 7 victories in the comfort of Madison Square Garden.
The task at hand against the rival New Jersey Devils in the conference finals is difficult, yet satisfyingly familiar. The Rangers have lost three straight Game 2s after series-opening wins and all three Game 4s following Game 3 victories. They have won two in a row only once in 18 in playoff games and have just one two-game losing streak in the postseason.
"I guess it's a positive. We're used to this situation," Rangers captain Ryan Callahan said Tuesday after practice. "It's something we've been through. We know how to prepare for it, and we'll be ready."
New York, which will host Game 5 on Wednesday night, now is in a best-of-three series with two of the games at home if it goes the distance again.
With whistle in hand, and instructions bellowing across the ice, Rangers coach John Tortorella ran a 40-minute practice that was originally scheduled to be optional. That changed after a 4-1 defeat on Monday in Game 4 in New Jersey.
After a team meeting that didn't include any film work, Tortorella seemed pleased with his team as it prepared for yet another important game.
"It defines our team ... our resiliency," Tortorella said. "You have to remember, when you're trying to win two in a row, there's also a team trying not to lose two in a row. It's a pretty good team at this stage of the season.
"I feel really good about our approach today and how we're going to go about our business [Wednesday]."
That doesn't mean that Tortorella isn't soliciting outside help for his struggling offense. What can be done to get players such as regular-season leading goal scorer Marian Gaborik, playmaker Brad Richards, and others such as Callahan and Brian Boyle going?
"Pray," Tortorella said. "I don't know what else to tell you. We're going to keep on trying to play, pray, and hopefully something good happens to them."
The Rangers have scored nine goals in four games with the Devils - six in New York's mirror-like 3-0 win in Games 1 and 3. Only one has been scored by the Rangers' top-line forwards.
Rookie Chris Kreider scored in each of the first three games just weeks after helping Boston College win the NCAA championship. Defenseman Dan Girardi, not known for his offensive prowess, has two goals, fellow defenseman Marc Staal also has one and forwards Callahan, Artem Anisimov and Ruslan Fedotenko have one each.
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