If the visiting team triumphs tonight at Madison Square Garden, the momentum will rest solely on their shoulders. If the New Jersey Devils play the "Comeback Kids" and neutralize their 2 losses at Newark, they will be a train that cannot be stopped. Believe it or not, this Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals means just as much to the Rangers' fate than it does to that of their Hudson River Rivals.
If anything has dictated playoff series in the past, it has been momentum. Hot teams often overcome good teams, and New York can not afford to have the Devils become hot right now. Coach Tom Renney addressed the careless play of the team that led to several opportunities and goals in Game 3. Every mistake in the playoffs can cost a team greatly, and the Rangers recognize that they need to make less mistakes than their opposition.
Sunday's loss seems not to have affected the Rangers' confidence too greatly. Even the frustrating way they lost, a bad carom off of Marc Staal's skate, is being spun in a positive way. "You don't have to say 'they made a great play to beat us,'" said Jaromir Jagr this morning. "For your confidence, you can say its a lucky goal." However the importance of this game is not lost on the Rangers captain. "Every game in the playoffs is a must win and every game means a lot."
For the Rangers and Devils, this game very likely means the series. Though it is early, it will be tough for the Devils to recover from a 3 games to 1 deficit, and the Rangers' confidence would take a big hit if they let the Devils tie the series up. A Devils win would turn the series into a best of 3, with the Devils having home ice in two of the contests. Interestingly enough, the road team has won all 3 games thus far, a pattern that Brendan Shanahan welcomes. "Its still early," said the Rangers veteran winger. "[But] I guess if it does go that way, it would be best for us.
In any event, this game is more imprtant to the Rangers than any of the first three. The Rangers are looking at this opportunity to grab control of the series with anticipation. "Its what the playoffs are all about," said Shanahan. "Each game gets bigger and bigger, they all grow in importance." Indeed, this game becomes the focus for Round 4 of the Battle of the Hudson and each team realizes what is on the line. It should be another good one.
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