2007-03-16 / Sports

Rangers Playoff Drive Needs Answers From Tough Questions

By Joe McDonald Sports Columnist

By Joe McDonald
Sports Columnist

NEW YORK - Most teams play very comfortable with two-goal leads. In fact, they usually are on the way to victory.

But not the Rangers. For the fifth time in their last 10 games, including all five losses - and the sixth time in their last 18 games - the Blueshirts dropped a two goal lead. This time to Ottawa Senators, who took a 3-2 decision at the Garden on Tuesday.

"It happened too many times for this team," said Michael Nylander. "Since December, we have to play more confident and play the same way.

"You want a lead in hockey and we want to play with a lead. We have to play tighter with the same intensity and wait [for the other team's] mistakes."

It's a disturbing trend, which has occurred all season. The Rangers seem to play with less intensity when they build a lead. And now, it has become an epidemic. Before Tuesday, the two games against Pittsburgh, which they Rangers got a point each because the games went overtime, were once 2-0 Ranger leads. Then back on Feb. 22 and 24 at the Garden against New Jersey and Columbus, respectively, 2-0 Ranger advantages turned into losses.

Can they be resting on their laurels?

Not so, according to coach Tom Renney. "I can appreciate that might be a consideration. But I don't think we are ready enough or mature enough to deal with the responsibility of holding a lead like that. We are almost better off with a one goal lead. Yet at the same time the effort is there. It's a peculiar thing."

Strange as it may be, the Blueshirts ability not to play with a lead may cost them a playoff spot. With 12 games left, they sit in 10th place, only two points out of the final playoff spot. Points and wins are needed now more then ever.

That's something Jaromir Jagr is hoping will occur. ""With everything bad, there's something good. I believe something great is going to happen. We're waiting for it, but I believe something good is going to happen. You have some tough luck, but you keep fighting."

With two games against the Islanders left and matches against Montreal and Toronto - the teams the Rangers are competing with - there is still hope, but blowing two-goal leads has to end.

"It's the same for everybody," Renney said. "There are a lot of teams that are trying to get in playoff position. It's not exclusive for us. We have to continue at it and work hard with it to seal a win like this."

The playoffs start in three weeks. Can the Rangers do it?

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