NEWARK, NJ - MAY 21: Linesman Brian Murphy #93 separates Mike Rupp #71 of the New York Rangers and Anton Volchenkov #28 of the New Jersey Devils in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Final during the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Prudential Center on May 21, 2012 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
The New York Rangers lost their cool against the New Jersey Devils in Game 4, and they must find a way to get their game back under control if they hope to advance.
While the team has been able to use a hard edge through both the 2011-12 regular season and playoffs, the Rangers have seen their physical play backfire over the last several games. The loss of Brandon Prust to supplementary discipline could have served as a wakeup call. Instead, the club drifted away from keeping the Devils contained through tight checking and began escalating the physical side of their game.
New York's tactics frequently left defenders behind the play or out of position, and New Jersey was able to capitalize at even strength and on the power play early in the third period, surrendering the 3-0 "dagger" goal to Zach Parise while Derek Stepan sat in the penalty box. Worse, the repeated incidents could well bring additional supplementary discipline against the club, particularly Michael Del Zotto's crosscheck to the head of Alexei Ponikarovsky in the final minute of the game.
If the Rangers attempted to send a message, the Devils had a firm reply -- the club was not intimidated by the Atlantic Division champion's attempts to impose control on the series, just as they shrugged off similar attempts by the club to slug their way to victory during the regular season.
With the series now a best-of-three matchup, the Rangers must refocus on the successful, disciplined style that brought them to the doorstep of the Stanley Cup Final. That, or they will once again be relegated to watching the end of the season on TV.