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Rangers return to struggling on power play in Game 5

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Derek Stepan and Rick Nash fight for positioning but the Rangers struggle offensively, espeically on the power play where they go 0-for-4.Howard Simmons/New York Daily News

Derek Stepan and Rick Nash fight for positioning but the Rangers struggle offensively, espeically on the power play where they go 0-for-4.

So much for the brief return of the Power Rangers.

Just when it looked as if the Blueshirts had rediscovered the switch for their long-grounded power play over the previous three games, they came up empty on four opportunities Sunday night — all in the first 30 minutes of a 2-0 loss to Tampa Bay in Game 5 at the Garden.

“Our power play had been getting us some momentum, had been getting us some really good looks. But our execution was a little slow tonight,” Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. “Because it was slow, it made it easier for them to defend. We didn’t get very many looks on it, and obviously that was a big part of tonight’s game.”

Indeed, the Rangers had gone 6-for-13 with the man-advantage in Games 2 through 4 of the series, netting two power play scores in each contest. That matched their goal total over 40 chances on the power play through their first 13 postseason games.

“We didn’t do a very good job of managing in the sense of making plays and chipping pucks in. That was my only issue with tonight,” Derek Stepan said. “We worked extremely hard to get the puck back on the power play and then just made poor decisions with it.”

As Stepan noted, Chris Kreider fired one scoring chance into the side of Ben Bishop’s net during one of two Tampa Bay kills in the first period.

“Are we having this conversation if he scores that goal? I’m not sure,” Stepan said.

“They did a good job blocking shots tonight (with 24) but we have to do a better job… of putting more pucks towards the net,” Ryan McDonagh added. “It was a big difference in the game; they get one (power-play goal by Steven Stamkos) and we don’t.”

Despite receiving two overdue goals from Rick Nash in Game 4, Vigneault rationed Nash and the second power play unit less ice time in those situations than the first unit featuring Derrick Brassard, Kreider and Stepan up front.

Overall, the Rangers totaled just four shots in eight minutes of power-play time, including consecutive kills by the Lightning midway through the second period.

“I thought that was the whole key to the game,” Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said. “I really thought it kind of sucked a little bit of the momentum away from them, and then we scored (on the power play) after that. It was almost like we may have popped the bubble a little bit. I thought we got stronger after that.

“But it was a huge effort by our penalty kill. They get that first one, who knows how this game turns?”

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