The Presidents’ Trophy winners are on the brink of elimination. Braden Holtby and the Washington defense have stifled the New York offense, and the Rangers now find themselves needing to win three games in a row in order to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals.
There’s no question that winning this series against the Capitals is an extremely tall task, especially given that the Rangers’ top guns aren’t scoring and frustration has appeared to set in. But that said, all hope is far from lost for this year’s Rangers team, and there’s reason for the Rangers and their fans to remain optimistic as many of the players on this year’s squad know a thing or two when it comes to playing with their backs against the wall.
“as much as i think our game is good at the end of the day we’re down 3-1 and we have to find a way to make it better”- #nyr head coach av
— new york rangers (@nyrangers) May 7, 2015
Here a look back at three series’ over the past three playoff runs where the Rangers have battled from behind to come back and emerge victorious; a reminder for all Rangers fans, near and far, to keep their heads high until the bitter end.
2012 Eastern Conference Quarter Finals
The Rangers and Senators met in the first round of the 2012 playoffs. After winning two of the first three contests, the heavily favored Rangers proceeded to drop games four and five and headed back to Ottawa for game six trailing the Senators three games to two.
After a season in which the Blueshirts finished first in the Eastern Conference, a first round exit at the hands of Ottawa would have been a massive disappointment. Needing a win in order to send the series back to New York for an all decisive game seven, the Rangers went into Scotiabank Place with their season hanging in the balance.
Their hopes were dimmed quickly when Chris Neil put the Senators ahead 1-0 at the 7:05 mark of the opening period. Trailing by one heading into the second period, the Rangers knew it was do or die and responded in turn with three goals in the final 12 minutes of the period courtesy of Derek Stepan, Brad Richards, and Chris Kreider.
That 3-1 lead proved to be enough for the Blueshirts despite a furious late push from the Senators, as they held on to earn the 3-2 victory in game six. The Rangers returned home a couple of days later for game seven, and went on the eliminate the Senators thanks to a 2-1 win at Madison Square Garden.
The Rangers proceeded to go on a deep playoff run, and were eventually eliminated by the Devils in game six of the Eastern Conference Finals, but not before staging the come from behind series win over Ottawa in the first round.
2013 Eastern Conference Quarter Finals
The next year following the lockout which shortened the regular season to 48 games, the Rangers and Capitals met in the first round of the playoffs. With the Capitals holding serve on home ice in the opening two games of the series, the Rangers returned home to Madison Square Garden in a 2-0 hole. Doing exactly what they had to do, the Blueshirts strung together a pair of 4-3 wins at home to knot the series at two.
The Capitals regained the series lead, however, as they took game five at the Verizon Center by a 2-1 final in overtime. Mike Ribeiro scored the game winner, and the Rangers again found themselves trailing the series.
Backs once again against the wall, the Rangers responded with a spirited 1-0 shutout win in game six back on Garden ice thanks to a second period goal from Derick Brassard.
After erasing a series deficit on two separate occasions [down 2-0 and 3-2], the Rangers finished the comeback job with a 5-0 rout of the Capitals in Washington in game seven.
The Rangers were eliminated in the next round as they dropped their series against the Bruins in five games.
Second Round: 2014 Playoffs
And then there’s the series that everyone continues to reference, as it was just last spring when the Rangers erased a 3-1 series deficit in round two to come back and eliminate the Pittsburgh Penguins in seven games.
After the Rangers downed the Penguins in overtime in game one, Pittsburgh stormed back by winning the next three games in a row to take a commanding 3-1 lead in the series. With the Rangers having to go back to Pittsburgh for game five, it seemed as though the Blueshirts’ season was all but over.
Then something unforeseen occurred, as the mother of Martin St. Louis passed away unexpectedly just prior to game five. While that was undoubtedly a tragic turn of events for St. Louis and the entire Rangers family, it was a galvanizing force for the team as a whole.
The Rangers then began the comeback as they chipped away one shift at a time, one period at a time, one game at a time. After a decisive 5-1 win in game five, the series again shifted back to New York for game six. On what was an especially emotional Mother’s Day, it was none other than St. Louis who opened the scoring for the Rangers. They never looked back as they went on to capture game six by a final score of 3-1, and forced the series back to Pittsburgh for game seven.
The Rangers finished off the unlikely comeback at the Consol Energy Center with a nail-biting 2-1 win over the Penguins to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals against the Montreal Canadiens. It was the first time in franchise history that the Rangers came back to win a series after trailing three games to one.
The Rangers eventually were defeated by the LA Kings in game five of the Stanley Cup Final.
Steep Road Ahead, But Not Impossible
There is no question that the Rangers find themselves in a tough spot right now heading into Friday evening’s game five. This year’s Capitals team is far better defensively than playoff’s past. They block shots, take away the lanes, and have essentially employed the system which the Rangers abandoned two years ago under John Tortorella; the one that everyone claimed stifled the offense.
Ironic, isn’t it?
But this is also not the Capitals team that blew a 2-0 series lead in 2013, nor is the same scenario as the Rangers found themselves in last spring against the Penguins. This is its own series against a very formidable opponent, and while it is unquestionably a very steep road ahead for the Rangers if they’re going to come back and win this series, it is far from impossible.
With the numbers Henrik Lundqvist has posted in elimination games in his career, coupled with the fact that many players in the Rangers lineup have “been there and done that” when it comes to playing from behind, Rangers fans have reason to stay positive.
Are they where they’d like to be heading into game five? Certainly not. But this series is far from over, and it starts with the first shift of Friday’s game at MSG. Puck drop is set for 7:00 p.m.
Jake Gittler is now in his second season as a contributing member of The Hockey Writers. After spending the 2014-15 season working in Communications for Adirondack Flames of the AHL and covering the New York Rangers here for The Hockey Writers, Jake’s coverage has been switched over to the Colorado Avalanche for the 2015-16 season. Jake can be reached via email at Jakegittler@gmail.com, or on Twitter @Jgittler_hockey.