MONTREAL -- After finally breaking through with a strong performance at home, the New York Rangers have their sights set on maintaining that effort where they've been more comfortable all season long: on the road.
Owners of the NHL's best road record in the regular season, the Rangers continued their stellar play on opposing ice in Game 1 and for half of Game 2.
An important series lead is on the table in Game 5 with their best-of-seven first-round series against the Montreal Canadiens now a best-of-three, beginning Thursday night at Bell Centre.
"There's not a home way to play or a road way to play," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. "There's just one way to play. We go on the road and, I guess, at the end of the day, we prepare and just go out and play. That's what we're going to try and do (on Thursday)."
Game 4 was one of New York's most complete efforts of the series thus far, limiting Montreal to just 24 shots. While they kept the Canadiens' offense at bay, they've still relied on the one player who has delivered the goods since the series began in goaltender Henrik Lundqvist.
Case in point: Lundqvist getting a piece of Andrew Shaw's shot on a breakaway midway through the first period, moments before Jesper Fast scored the opening goal.
"He's played some really solid hockey for us this year and, right now, he's doing what you want a goaltender to do: Give your team a chance," Vigneault said.
While the Rangers have been much more at home on the road, they know they can't get too comfortable.
"It's funny: I've been around for how many years, been playing in playoff games, I still get those butterflies going into any game," center Derek Stepan told the team's website. "It doesn't matter if it's Game 1 or Game 7, you still get those jitters, (that) playoff excitement and adrenaline running through you.
"I don't like the word 'comfortable' at this time of the year," he added. "I think it's not a good word. I don't think you're ever comfortable in any series, let alone at the Bell Centre."
The Canadiens, meanwhile, are looking to rebound after their poorest postseason effort to date. After putting up 12 shots in the first period, Montreal managed 12 in the second and third periods combined.
Seven players have found the back of the net so far, with veteran Torrey Mitchell becoming the latest with his tally in Game 4. But one player still looking for a goal is captain Max Pacioretty, who put up 35 in the regular season -- his fourth straight 30-plus goal campaign.
Pacioretty said Game 4 wasn't his best and he needs to be better. While outside chatter on his drought increased after Wednesday, his teammates know it's just a matter of time.
"I think he puts a lot of pressure on himself because he wants the team to win and he wants to be part of the reason for that," winger Paul Byron said. "We all have his back in this dressing room; we all believe in him. It's just a matter of time. Getting the first (goal), the monkey comes off your back and you start playing a lot better after that."
While Montreal waits for its captain's offense to return, it could welcome back another important part of its game: defenseman Alexei Emelin.
The hard-hitting blue-liner has been sidelined since suffering an undisclosed injury on April 5. On Wednesday, only the team's extras skated and Emelin joined them -- the first time he has skated with teammates since getting injured. Canadiens coach Claude Julien noted it's a "positive sign" but also pointed out that he needs to see the team doctors before a final decision could be made.
General manager Marc Bergevin added to his team's bottom-pairing and fourth-line depth. Defensemen Brandon Davidson replaced a struggling Nikita Nesterov in the past two games while Mitchell made his first appearance of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs in New York, replacing Andreas Martinsen.
"Obviously, the last month of the season we were all taking turns of playing and helping contribute. And (if) you hope to have a long playoff run you're going to need every single guy," Habs veteran Steve Ott said. "And similar to Torrey Mitchell stepping in and playing great hockey for us as well, I think all of us know that at any given time every single guy on this roster can be playing."