Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Sergei Gonchar (55), of Russia, checks New York Rangers\' Jaromir Jagr (68), of the Czech Republic, off the puck in third-period NHL playoff hockey action. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS/Gene J. Puskar
GREENBURGH, N.Y. - The dark clouds that dumped drenching rain on the New York Rangers upon their return home from a disappointing trip to Pittsburgh were merely symbolic.
No one candy-coated the situation they face, trailing 2-0 in the Eastern Conference semifinal series against the second-seeded Penguins after an empty and frustrating road trip to Pittsburgh.
But the Rangers weren't about to throw in the towel - Pittsburgh's terrible one or any other, either.
"If somebody tells you that you have to win four of five, it's strange. It doesn't look possible," captain Jaromir Jagr said Monday after an hourlong practice. "But if someone tells you that you have to win the next one, then tell you that you have to win the next one and the next one, it's a lot easier. You don't think too forward.
"That's what Einstein said," he added as he smiled and pointed to a biography of the noted genius displayed in his locker.
It won't take nuclear physics or any superhuman feat for New York to get back into the series that shifts to Madison Square Garden for Game 3 on Tuesday and Game 4 on Thursday. A similar defensive effort to what the Rangers put forth Sunday in a 2-0 loss combined with the offensive firepower they generated in a 5-4 defeat in the series opener could be enough to topple the Penguins.
"I don't think we have to think too much right now," goalie Henrik Lundqvist said. "We've been talking about the right stuff here, about coming home and playing.
"We know we can pull it off. We beat this team a couple of times during the year. The difference is not great between us, so let's put all our focus and energy to get one win. A lot of things can change and the momentum can change in a series."
It did a year ago in the second round when the Rangers dropped the first two games on the road against top-seeded Buffalo. They returned home and got the series tied before dropping an excruciating Game 5 in overtime after current Rangers forward Chris Drury scored the tying goal for the Sabres with less than 10 seconds left in regulation.
The season ended two days later with a home loss in Game 6.
"The way our guys respond to these types of challenges, the way that they've been able to respond to having lost a couple of tough games during the season and come to work the next day speaks for itself," Rangers coach Tom Renney said. "The demeanour and the deportment of our team this morning, under the circumstances, was real positive and real good - in terms of, 'We're home, we're going to get these guys.'
"The gravity of where we are now obviously catches their attention, too."
New York went 5-3 against their division rivals during the regular season, including a 4-0 mark at home that included an overtime victory March 31.
"Two of those games, we didn't play well. It wasn't our team," Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said. "We had a tight one at the end of the season that went to overtime. We know it doesn't get any easier and we know they're a tough team at home.
"I think we know we did a good job (in Pittsburgh), but there's still a long ways to go."
The Rangers' power play connected for five goals in 35 chances against Pittsburgh in the regular-season series, but is 1-for-9 in this post-season matchup. New York failed to score on its six advantages Sunday.
Marc-Andre Fleury skated off with his second shutout of this year's playoffs, backstopping Pittsburgh's 6-0 post-season mark with a 1.50 goals-against average.
"I don't think it was them. I thought it was us that made them look that good," Jagr said. "I don't think we did anything special to put the pressure on them."
Five meetings during the regular season were decided by two goals or fewer. New York hadn't trailed by more than a goal throughout its first seven post-season games this year, including five against New Jersey, until Adam Hall's empty-netter in the closing seconds Sunday pushed Pittsburgh's lead to 2-0.
Although they chose not to harp on the officiating that produced key calls that cost them in each of the first two games, the Rangers tried to put a positive spin on it in showing that the gap between them and the Penguins isn't all that big.
Pittsburgh has an added advantage by showing in can beat the Rangers via shootout and shutout.
"That's the one thing about this team; we're never really satisfied," said Penguins forward Jordan Staal, who scored Sunday's winner. "We just want to keep rolling."
If Fleury can handle the added pressure the Rangers are hoping to put on him on home ice, and Crosby can deflect what surely will be heavy boos in his direction after he was painted as a diver to draw penalties, the Penguins can be expected to take an even tighter hold on the series.
"These two games here are in the past, and they're making sure they're good at home," Crosby said of the Rangers. "It wouldn't be a surprise (to be booed). It's the playoffs and they're an emotional crowd, and I'm sure they're going to want to stand by their team the way our fans did for us.
"So if that's the case, that's the way it is."