NEW YORK -- Wednesday presents the Rangers with an opportunity that they have yet to seize this postseason. Throughout a grueling first two rounds, the Rangers gave back momentum just as easily as they gained it, failing to capture a commanding two-game series lead.
Following a victory against the Devils in Game 1 -- one in which they were outplayed for significant stretches yet still escaped with a win -- the Rangers have the chance to rectify that Wednesday.
"We were talking about it today in our meeting when were watching video," defenseman Ryan McDonagh explained at the podium of Tuesday's media session with reporters. "We don't play a great game, but we find a way to win in the third period there, getting through some of their surges. You start the series 1-nothing and you want to get a hold of the series in the next game.
"It's a huge opportunity. We haven't done it before; it's made it a tougher road. It would be nice to, in a sense, make a stand on home ice and make that last win mean that much more."
Little has come easy for the Rangers in the first month of postseason play and, as the Devils' relentless forechecking effort and tenacious offensive pressure displayed, they can't expect anything different from this series.
But they can assert control against their Hudson River rivals in a way they couldn't against their first- and second-round opponents, Ottawa and Washington. The top-seeded Rangers jumped out to a 1-0 series lead in both those matchups and surrendered the following game. The pingpong of momentum didn't end there; the team was extended to seven games in both sets.
"The last two series we've kind of let Game 2 slip away from us. We've got to make sure we're ready," said captain Ryan Callahan.
Given the way the Rangers play, grinding teams down versus dominating them, a 2-0 series lead wouldn't necessarily be comfortable. But it would provide breathing room for a team that has had next to none since the regular season.
"It'd be really good. The last two rounds ... it's been back and forth," Callahan said. "We haven't had a two-game lead yet. In this type of playoffs, it's obviously important to get that. We're putting a lot of emphasis in tomorrow's game and trying to get that two-game lead."
The Rangers' inability to impose their control over any series thus far has also been a reflection of some tough opponents. The Senators bruised their way into the series in the quarterfinals, and the Capitals gave them a taste of their own hard-hitting, shot-blocking style of play in the semis. By contrast, the Devils present perhaps the most offensively balanced and aggressive foe.
"You need to give the other teams credit," Ruslan Fedotenko told ESPNNewYork.com. "We're not playing some pee-wee bantam teams. If [the series] were 4-0, 4-1, people wouldn't be watching."
Everyone will be watching Wednesday, as the Rangers try to chart a different course than in series past.
"I think we have to have that mindset of we gotta be desperate. We gotta try to win our battles," Callahan said. "If we do that, we give ourselves the best chance."