It was another case of a message sent, a message received.
Heading into the third period Thursday night tied with the Sarnia Sting, Connor Bunnaman and Givani Smith notched a goal and an assist.
On both, Smith was an absolute beast in the Sting zone protecting the puck and showing exactly why the Rangers traded for him.
The Rangers routed the Sting 5-3 in Game 4 to even the series.
“I have to give Connor Bunnaman a lot of credit. He was sat for about 10 minutes in the second period, and came out and responded like a captain,” said Rangers head coach Jay McKee.
“If you look at their third goal, he had all kinds of time and space with the puck deep in our zone he just kind of threw it away. If you combine that with a game the other night I didn’t think was very clean from him, it doesn’t take much when you’re on the short leash.”
Sitting a top-6 forward in such an important game is a bold move, to put it lightly. But it’s something McKee has done in the regular season, with success.
“If you look back earlier in the season, with Damiani and Sherwood, a lot of times they’ll respond,” said McKee. “They take it to heart. They have a lot of pride. They want to get out there and show they don’t want to be sat. [Bunnaman] responded the right way, and it was huge for us.”
McKee has said numerous times throughout the season, ‘your best players need to be your best players,’ and his best players were there when needed.
Kole Sherwood had a goal and an assist and Logan Brown had two assists in the win. But it was Mario Culina standing on his head early in the third period that gave the Rangers a chance at the win.
“Mario’s been our backbone since he started playing for us,” said McKee. “He’s given us a chance to win on 99 per cent of the nights.”
The series now shifts back to the Aud Friday night for Game 5. It turns into a best-of-3 with the Rangers holding home-ice advantage.
Pre-game Friday is at 7:00 p.m.