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We've Seen This Rangers Movie Before

No shortage of deja vu in Eastern Conference Finals

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    Another Game Three gem from Lundqvist.

    The Rangers might not blow you away offensively or play a particularly exhilirating style of hockey, but they might be the most consistent team you'll ever see. 

    By winning Game Three over the Devils, the Rangers have started a playoff series with a 2-1 lead for the third straight time. They have also followed the same pattern of winning the opener, losing Game Two and, with Saturday's 3-0 win, halting their opponent's momentum in Game Three.

    And, in all three cases, Game Three has been a game the Rangers easily could have lost. There was the tight 1-0 game in Ottawa, the triple overtime win in Washington and Saturday's victory by the grace of Henrik Lundqvist.

    The Rangers were outplayed for two periods and gave up an unusually high 36 shots that Lundqvist turned aside. Lundqvist is the biggest reason why the Rangers have avoided losing streaks all year because it's hard to get too much past him on two straight nights. 

    If you're paying attention, it's also three straight series in which Lundqvist has saved his team's bacon in Game Three. He's allowed one goal in 234:41 of play in third games this spring, a remarkable fact that doesn't quite say enough about how important Lundqvist is to the team.

    One thing that could throw the Rangers off their well-established rhythm is the loss of Brandon 

    Prust for Monday night. Prust hit Anton 

    Volchenkov with an elbow to the head that went unpenalized (though it should have been) and there's a chance the league office could take action.

    Volchenkov wasn't hurt, which has sometimes been the standard for suspension but the league office doesn't share John Tortorella's passion for consistency. The Rangers haven't been thrown by other missing players in the playoffs, although Prust's penalty killing role is an important one when you play with such a limited margin for error.

    That penalty killing ran second to Lundqvist as reasons for the Rangers win in Game Three. Those were the rare moments in the first two periods when the Rangers didn't seem to be stuck in neutral.

    That leads us to Game Four, a game in which the Rangers have an 0-2 record this postseason. The reasons for those losses were in evidence against the Devils on Saturday.

    Sluggish stretches when the opposition dominates play and a general lack of scoring punch makes for games that the Rangers can lose as easily as they win. The effort level doesn't fluctuate much from night to night, but the negative results from allowing teams opportunities can come back to bite the Rangers. 

    There are differences this time, though. The Rangers power play, so often a myth this year, has scored on four of 10 opportunities and Chris Kreider keeps on growing into a key role.

    Kreider has become such an integral part of what makes the Rangers do well that it is hard to remember that he hasn't been on the team all season. He's scored in all three games and the last two have been on deflections that occured because he's going to the net.

    That hasn't happened often enough with Rangers forwards, so the Devils will need to redouble their efforts against Kreider on Monday. They also need to figure out a way to stop the Rangers power play, something that seemed impossible to imagine when the series got underway.

    Solving Lundqvist would be big for them as well, although focusing on the first two things is a lot more likely to pay off for them.   

    Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and he is also a contributor to Pro Football Talk.