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Rangers Go For Complete Control in Game Four

The Rangers answered a challenge in Game Three and they can snuff out spirit on Wednesday night



    Rangers Go For Complete Control in Game Four
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    The Rangers pushed back on Monday and can finish the job on Wednesday.

    Elevation was the name of the game on Monday night.

    The Rangers got pushed around in Game Two of their series with the Senators. It was a shocking development because up until that point, they rarely took any physical guff from the opposition. The Rangers needed to find another gear to retake the advantage in the series.

    They found it. And it wasn't just Henrik Lundqvist standing on his head for 60 minutes, although that helped.

    It was Stu Bickel blocking a shot in front of an open net and Anton Stralman making two marvelous defensive plays to kill scoring chances in the third period. You expect that from Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh, but not from a third defensive pair that hasn't always had John Tortorella's respect.

    It was also Ruslan Fedotenko rediscovering the edge to his game after a mostly passive final month of the season. And it was especially Brian Boyle looking like the star that many have thought lurked inside his massive frame since he was a first-round pick back in 2003.

    On the one hand, we shouldn't have been surprised by the victory. The Rangers have followed up losses with superior efforts all season long, and they won Monday night's game by doing the same.

    But these are the playoffs, and teams don't always offer up those kinds of responses when the chips are down. Just look at the Penguins and Canucks as two examples of teams that have pretty much folded up their tents after taking a shot in the mouth.

    We know that the Rangers can elevate their game. Now the question is whether they can maintain the level again against a Senators team that is sure to be desperate on Wednesday night.

    Matt Carkner, who touched off the brawl that got Brandon Dubinsky kicked out of Game Two, will be back in the lineup and the Senators may try to get under everybody's skin after losing some of their nastiness in Game Three. The Rangers have to be just as tough as they were in that 1-0 win without allowing themselves to be goaded into doing anything stupid if provoked.

    It's a fine line, but it is one the Rangers are capable of walking. If they do it -- and it would help if they can do it without allowing quite as many quality scoring chances this time around -- they'll be in complete control when they return to the Garden on Saturday night.

    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.