Stanley Cup Playoffs 2014: A must win for both New York and Montreal

Elsa

Sunday night's Game 4 represents a must-win for both New York and Montreal for different reasons.

The hijinks of the Eastern Conference Finals will momentarily be put on hold Sunday night when the Rangers and Canadiens play Game 4. And truth be told, neither team can afford to lose this game.

Let's begin with the obvious: Already in a 2-1 whole, the Canadiens know just how pivotal Sunday night's contest will be. Sure, Montreal has overcome a series deficit this postseason, rallying from a 3-2 hole against the top-seeded Bruins, winning in Montreal and then on the road in a decisive Game 7. But a 3-1 climb is a bit different, as the Rangers would get three cracks at advancing to the Stanley Cup round.

And of course, while two of those three games would be played at the Bell Centre if this series was to go the distance, the Rangers have already won twice there, and certainly won't be seeing any demons going north of the boarder.

On the flip-side, the last thing the Rangers want to do is cough up what was a 2-0 lead. When you get that kind of series edge, letting the other team even things up certainly swings the pendulum of momentum, and starts to create doubt. The last time the Rangers lost consecutive games was when the Penguins ran off three straight victories last round. Teams that make deep playoff runs generally don't go through many losing streaks, so stopping the bleeding before the wound becomes fatal is pretty important.

Expect the Rangers to come out inspired. Think Game 2 of this series, when Carey Price's injury galvanized the Canadiens in front of their home crowd. Don't expect Derek Stepan to be in tomorrow night, but expect New York—in front of what's sure to be a raucous crowd—to play off those emotions. The Rangers biggest key to that Game 2 victory was weathering the storm, as Ryan McDonagh scored just 17 seconds after Max Pacioretty put Montreal ahead. The message from Michel Therrien will surely be to get through the Rangers' initial push unscathed.

Conversely, if the Rangers do come out hot, and are pressing, finding the back of the net will be just as paramount. While Dustin Tokarski played a very solid Game 3, this shouldn't come as a surprise at this point. But if the Rangers are going to create consistent chances in high volume, it doesn't matter who is wearing the pads; they need to capitalize on their opportunities.

And while the Rangers don't want to find themselves in a Game 7 on the road, they also have plenty of other reasons to want to end this series as soon as possible. With Stepan now out, and Brassard only just returning from injury, New York is hurting at the center position. Players like Dominic Moore are playing major minutes, more than they have previously. And this is a team coming off two seven game series, with only the Kings having also needed 14 games to reach the Conference Finals round. Rest—as the players have indicated with the longer breaks between games this series—is pretty important.

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