Rangers aim to compete at higher level against Lightning in Game 4

TAMPA -- The New York Rangers didn't come into the Eastern Conference Final naively underestimating the challenge of knocking out the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions.

They knew it would be hard. Now they know just how tall of a task this is going to be.

The Rangers won Games 1 and 2 against the Tampa Bay Lightning at home, but were outplayed and lost 3-2 in Game 3 at Amalie Arena on Sunday. They lead the best-of-7 series 2-1 ahead of Game 4 here Tuesday (8 p.m. ET; ESPN, ESPN+, CBC, SN, TVAS).

"We know they're not going to give you anything for nothing," coach Gerard Gallant said Monday. "They've won, what, 10 series in a row? We're going to have to take it from them. We're going to have be a real good team. We're going to have to go out there and take it from them."

The Rangers' experience as the team trailing in each of the first two rounds gave them an idea of how hard the Lightning were going to push in Game 3.

But they weren't ready to match it. The Lightning outshot the Rangers 52-30, including 19-6 in the third period. The Rangers built a 2-0 lead midway through the second period on power-play goals from Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider, but it's only like that angered the Lightning more.

Tampa Bay tied the game with power-play goals from Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos and won it on Ondrej Palat's goal at 19:18 of the third period.

"I just think they were ready to compete a little harder than we were," Gallant said. "That was the difference in the hockey game. You can say matchups, you can say different stuff, but overall I think their compete level was a little higher than ours. We have to match that tomorrow, get above it."

Again, the Rangers should know exactly what to expect from the Lightning in Game 4 because they were in that position down 3-1 against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference First Round and 2-0 against the Carolina Hurricanes in the second round.

They were resilient, winning Games 5, 6 and 7 against Pittsburgh, all in come-from-behind fashion. They came back to tie the series against Carolina, lost Game 5 in what was their worst performance of the series but rebounded to win Games 6 and 7 by a combined 11-4.

"We've got to compete, we've got to battle, we've got to play a little grittier than we did," Gallant said. "It's 2-2 or it's 3-1, let's see where it goes." To make it 3-1, the Rangers can't allow the Lightning to have the puck as much as they did in Game 3.