The New York Rangers have lost three straight games to the Pittsburgh Penguins and now find themselves on the brink of elimination heading back to Pittsburgh for Game 5. The Pens hold a commanding 3-1 lead after winning consecutive road games at Madison Square Garden.
The Rangers’ disappointment in Game 4 boils down to one thing—turnovers. Pittsburgh’s first two goals came as a direct result of Ranger giveaways, with one of them coming shorthanded.
After the Rangers tied the game at one in the second period, Rick Nash made an ill-advised pass that turned into a breakaway for Brian Gibbons. Gibbons missed his shot, but the rebound laid in front for Brandon Sutter to score the shorthanded goal.
The Rangers haven’t scored a power play goal in their last 36 chances, and giving up a shorty had to be discouraging. The Rangers committed a ghastly 25 giveaways in comparison to only eight for the Penguins.
Brad Richards was the only New York forward not to have a giveaway. He’s in an exclusive club, as only three Rangers players had no turnovers; seven Ranger skaters had more than one giveaway.
New York failed to make simple outlet passes in their zone, and credit the Pens for pressuring the Rangers and getting in passing lanes. The fact that Pittsburgh only had seven takeaways shows that the Rangers were hurting themselves with unforced errors.
The Rangers also had a tough time winning possession on face-offs. Pittsburgh dominated in the circle, winning 31 of the games 49 draws. The lack of possession and the abundance of giveaways have nearly doomed the Rangers in their best-of-seven series. New York has to win three straight games, including two of them on the road in Pittsburgh.
The lack of possession is evident from the shots on goal. The Rangers only got 15 shots on Marc-Andre Fleury and had awful numbers at even strength. The Rangers could only manage 12 even strength shots, which is a huge concern moving forward. The Rangers mostly have played well at 5-on-5, but Game 4 was their worst game yet in that regard.
While the Rangers only got 15 shots, they scored two goals and had a chance to come back, but the turnovers proved to be too much to overcome. Smarter passes and better transitions in the neutral zone will hopefully fix the problem for New York. They must fix it fast, as they put their playoff lives on the line for the first time in Game 5.