Capitals-Rangers Preview

The New York Rangers had such a simple plan when they got home
from Washington in an 0-2 hole against the Capitals: find a way to
get one win.

It worked so well in a hard-fought 4-3 victory on Monday night
that they are heading into Wednesday’s Game 4 at Madison Square
Garden with the very same objective.

”All we were focused on is doing whatever we could to try to
win a game,” Rangers coach John Tortorella said. ”We did that,
and now we need to try to win one more game, and we’ll see what
happens from there.”

While the Capitals stayed off the ice on Tuesday to recover, the
Rangers held a full practice. They were without forward Rick Nash,
who was given a ”maintenance day,” and Darroll Powe, who was
injured on Monday and is unlikely to play in Game 4.

If the Rangers can win again Wednesday, they will assure
themselves of hosting Game 6 after a game in between in Washington
on Friday.

After netting only one goal in the two road losses – including a
1-0 overtime defeat in Game 2 – the Rangers’ offense broke out. New
York even scored a power-play goal and added another tally just as
another advantage ended.

”We didn’t break,” said Rangers forward Derick Brassard, who
had a goal and two assists on Monday. ”I think our bunch was
really positive. Guys were really confident that we tried to find a
way to win the game. At the end of the game our top line came out
strong for us. They were competing hard all game. They came out
huge for us to get that goal.

That winner was scored by Derek Stepan, who deflected a pass
from Nash in behind goalie Braden Holtby with 6:25 left in
regulation. It was the Rangers’ second tiebreaking goal of the
third period.

It never would’ve happened if defenseman Ryan McDonagh hadn’t
deftly kept the puck in the Washington end just before it was about
to leave the zone at the left point. McDonagh moved the puck to
Mats Zuccarello, who got it to Nash for the winning play.

The moment was sweet redemption for the 23-year-old McDonagh,
whose delay-of-game penalty when he inadvertently shot the puck out
of play led directly to Mike Green’s overtime goal in Game 2 on
Saturday.

”He makes a mistake, and to me that’s not a mistake, it’s just
happenstance,” Tortorella said of the Game 2 penalty. ”It never
bothers him. It killed him after the game, but that’s what, at such
a young age, that he has. He is able to recover and go out and
play. It doesn’t surprise me at all how he handled himself.”

McDonagh also has the daunting task of trying to keep top
Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin in check. Ovechkin had no points
while logging over 22 minutes of ice time in Game 3.

Ovechkin wasn’t one of the few players the Capitals made
available to reporters at the team hotel on Tuesday, but coach Adam
Oates addressed comments from McDonagh that Ovechkin seemed tired
before the Rangers scored the winning goal.

”I don’t think he was tired,” Oates said. ”I think that I
didn’t do a good enough job getting him in his rhythm, probably
because of penalties.”

The Capitals were short-handed six times and received only three
power plays of their own. The last came with 1:54 remaining after
Ovechkin was high-sticked by Brad Richards.

Washington pulled Holtby for an extra skater, giving the
Capitals a 6-on-4 skating advantage, and put on lots of pressure in
the Rangers’ end. While the Capitals controlled the puck as time
ran down, they never got a shot in on goalie Henrik Lundqvist.

”They did a really good job of protecting him,” Oates said of
Lundqvist. ”We probably just could have tried a better way to get
to the net just to start the process of him not being able to cover
his rebounds, get to the second waves. We were probably too cute
with it.”

The Capitals scored on two of their seven power-play chances in
their two wins.

”These guys have been through this before. It’s playoffs.
You’re not going to win every game,” Oates said. ”There are a lot
of things we could fix. You have got to give them a little bit of
credit.”

Outside of Powe’s injury, the Rangers continue to get healthier.
They got forward Brian Boyle back earlier in the series, and he had
a goal and assist on Monday, and defenseman Marc Staal returned in
Game 3 from a serious eye injury sustained on March 5.

Rugged forward Ryane Clowe has been sidelined by a suspected
concussion since the final week of the regular season. He went
through battle drills in practice on Tuesday, and might be able to
rejoin the lineup in Powe’s place on Wednesday.

”Like any other player, you want to play,” Clowe said.
”Sometimes it’s not thinking about the smart decision. At this
time of year, I want to play. I did some contact stuff on ice, some
battle stuff I haven’t done yet. I felt pretty good, and we’ll see
how the rest of the day goes.”