In his news briefings, Gerard Gallant comes across as a really happy guy, always with a smile on his face. The Rangers’ coach’s smile was wiped from his face Tuesday night after his team’s devastating 4-1 loss to the Lightning in Game 4 of the conference championship at Amalie Arena.
After the Rangers’ winger with the sniper shot was effectively held in check for the second consecutive game by Tampa’s line headed by Anthony Cirelli, Gallant was asked what he might say to Mika Zibanejad to get better output in this series. “I tell him all the time, ‘Be more effective,’”. Gallant sneered, plainly irritated by the line of enquiry. “Do you think I don’t talk to our players?” So, what are your plans? Cirelli is going to put in a lot of effort to shut down [the Zibanejad line] as much as possible.
“Everybody has a checking line,”. That’s how it works. You’ll have to fight your way through it. Mika is a seasoned pro who knows what he’s doing.” In Games 1 and 2 at the Garden, Zibanejad was far more effective, assisting on the opening goal and scoring the game-winner in a 6-2 win in Game 1 and scoring the game-winner in Game 2. Zibanejad has been rather quiet the past two games, despite scoring a goal in Game 3 to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead.
“It’s a good line,” said Zibanejad of Cirelli and Co. “They’re clearly out there with a job to do and a part to play.” Today, I think we created a little more offence, but we have to focus on ourselves and not on who we’re playing. “We’ll relax up and prepare for Game 5.” Gallant will have the option of keeping Zibanejad away from the Cirelli line in Game 5 at the Garden, with the host team getting to make the final line change.
Coach Jon Cooper of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers noted, “We had better control of [line alterations] here.” “Who knows what’s going to happen in New York, but we had to start keeping them off the board to get back in this series, and [Cirelli’s] line — especially him — has done a fantastic job.”