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Hartnett: In A Hole, Rangers Are Seeing Signs They Can Turn Series Around

Ryan McDonagh of the New York Rangers, right, battles for the puck against Paul Martin of the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 3 of their playoff series at Madison Square Garden on May 5, 2014. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Ryan McDonagh of the New York Rangers, right, battles for the puck against Paul Martin of the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 3 of their playoff series at Madison Square Garden on May 5, 2014. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

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‘Rangers Inside And Out’
By Sean Hartnett
» More Columns

Puck luck was not on the Rangers’ side in Game 3, as Pittsburgh goalie Marc-Andre Fleury earned his second shutout in consecutive nights.

The Rangers struck at least three posts and the bounces did not go their way on Monday night. But hey, that’s hockey. In Game 3, the Blueshirts established dominant offensive-zone time, thoroughly outshot the Pens by a 35 to 15 margin and their power play finally began to show signs of life as the game went on. The Rangers’ luck will eventually turn around should these positive trends continue.

“We did a lot of good things; everything but put it in the net,” Rangers alternate captain Brad Richards said. “A lot of looks all over the ice, different situations, but one of those nights where we deserved a better fate. But we move on.”

Pittsburgh has taken a 2-1 series lead, but by no means are the Pens dominating this series. This series is entirely up for grabs.

“You might be frustrated right now, but it does no good,” Richards said. “We are in the middle of a series, and out of those three games we played two real good ones.”

The key for the Rangers is that frustration is not setting in with this team. After playing six games in nine days, the Rangers can finally catch a breath and reassess. The Rangers have a scheduled day off on Tuesday, and then go right back to work on Wednesday.

“I think we’ve played a lot of hockey lately,” winger Martin St. Louis said. “We’re going to come up for air here, regroup a little bit and get ready for Game 4. I’m not worried. We have plenty of guys who can put the puck in the net and we’re going to keep working for it.”

From head coach Alain Vigneault to the locker-room veterans to the less experienced players, the Rangers are not allowing frustration or a woe-is-me attitude to seep into their thinking. Having wise, seen-it-all players like St. Louis, Richards and Dominic Moore is vital.

Mentality means everything during the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Vigneault and his veterans have done an excellent job of reinforcing a positive atmosphere throughout the locker room.

“We’re down by a game, but if we play the same as we did tonight, I’m confident we will have a better outcome on Wednesday,” Vigneault said.

POWER PLAY IMPROVING; DIAZ MAKES SOLID CONTRIBUTION AFTER BEING INSERTED INTO LINEUP

In his first playoff game as a Ranger, Raphael Diaz made noticeable contributions. The 28-year-old defenseman took John Moore’s place on the third defensive pairing on the left of Kevin Klein and played a total of 19:30. Diaz logged 6:18 on the power play and launched six shots on goal.

His presence on the power play had a transformative effect. While the Rangers did not break their horrendous power-play drought, Diaz did a solid job of carrying the puck and tested Fleury. Diaz is not a be-all, end-all remedy for the Rangers’ power-play woes, but he’s been an immediate help. The Rangers established zone time and steadiness on the power play for the first time during the series.

The Rangers are now 0-for-their-last-34 on the power play. You would have to search as far back as Game 2 against the Flyers to locate the Blueshirts’ last power-play goal.

LUNDQVIST: ‘THIS IS DEFINITELY NOT OVER’

Game 3 against the Penguins was truly a case of the Rangers deserving a better outcome for their efforts. They just need to continue working and sticking to their plan.

“It’s the first to four wins,” goaltender Henrik Lundqvist said. “We just need to take a deep breath here and regroup tomorrow, and just get ready for the next one. That’s going to be a very important game for us. This is definitely not over. We’re playing well and creating chances.”

Again, mentality means everything this time of year. The Rangers have the right outlook and that will serve them well as this series goes on.

Follow Sean on Twitter @HartnettHockey.

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