Capitals-Rangers Preview

If the New York Rangers are bothered by Bruce Boudreau’s claims

of dirty play and his disparaging remarks about Madison Square

Garden, they are keeping those thoughts to themselves.

Appearing focused Tuesday as they prepared for Game 4 on

Wednesday night, the Rangers are concentrating on getting even with

the Washington Capitals and staying away from the complaints of

their opponent’s outspoken coach.

”Our mindset is we’re just focusing on what we need to do,

which is playing the right way and getting ready,” Rangers coach

John Tortorella said Tuesday. ”We have confidence in the league

and confidence in the officials that they won’t be influenced by

all the whining going on.”

On Monday, the first of two off days in the first-round Eastern

Conference playoff series, Boudreau claimed the Rangers were

targeting the head of defenseman Mike Green, who missed the final

20 games of the regular season because of a concussion.

He was upset about New York’s tactics in a 3-2 win Sunday in

Game 3 in which the Rangers crashed the net and young Capitals

goalie Michal Neuvirth. Boudreau added in a radio interview that

Madison Square Garden wasn’t all that loud, and that the locker

rooms and benches were ”horrible.”

Boudreau said officials issued warnings during the game, but

then failed to call penalties when infractions occurred. New York

had seven power plays Sunday; Washington had three.

”Our guys would come to the bench and say, ‘They’re warning us

not to do anything. They keep warning us, but nothing’s getting

accomplished,”’ Boudreau said. ”If you’re at home and you warn

your kids not to do something and you don’t follow through with

some punishment, they’re going to continue to do it, I would

assume. That’s how mine were, anyway.”

Boudreau and the Capitals will have to deal with the Garden

again Wednesday. If they come up short, they will head home to

Washington tied 2-2 after grabbing a 2-0 series lead.

In team history, the Capitals are 1-4 in series they have led

2-0. Last year, after winning the Presidents’ Trophy, Washington

was eliminated by No. 8-seed Montreal in seven games after jumping

to a 3-1 series edge.

”This game is really going to swing the series,” Washington

forward Brooks Laich said. ”We could take a stranglehold on it, or

it could be a very long series. We understand it. It’s the same

situation we faced last year. We were unsuccessful last game, so we

have to have a better effort.”

Neuvirth faced 35 shots Sunday and gave up three goals after

allowing only one on 47 total shots in the first two games at

home.

With his coach calling out the Rangers’ fans and putting the

officials on alert for perceived dirty tricks, Neuvirth could have

many other things to deal with beside stopping pucks.

”It was a bad game, tough loss,” Neuvirth said. ”There’s

still a lot of hockey left. It’s all business, and we’ve got to be

ready for Wednesday.”

After playing three times in five days, the Rangers and Capitals

will now have to get used to sitting around. They are finishing a

two-day break, but will then have another before playing Game 5 in

Washington on Saturday afternoon.

Momentum often shifts within a series, and that will certainly

be the case regardless of which team wins Game 4, but it might be

hard to sustain for the rest of the week.

”Can’t do anything about it,” Tortorella said. ”I’d rather

play, but TV kind of rules with that, doesn’t it? Both team will

take advantage. We try to find the best way to use it. We have our

process that we’ll go through. I’m sure they do, too.”

Top-line forward Marian Gaborik holds a lot of the Rangers’

chances to advance in his hands. The purest goal scorer on New

York’s roster was limited to 22 in 62 games in a disappointing and

injury-filled regular season, and he has no points in this

series.

New York’s offensive difficulties are even more apparent because

of the absence of second-leading scorer Ryan Callahan, who broke a

leg in the final week of the regular season.

”I feel pretty good. Hopefully something will get in soon,”

Gaborik said. ”Just got to keep skating and drive the net and be

responsible defensively and create chances.”

Seeing the Rangers grind out a win they needed appears to have

served as a wakeup call to the Capitals, who again posted the best

record in the Eastern Conference (48-23-11).

They know no one will remember their record if they flame out in

the first round for a second straight year. Alex Ovechkin is

already one Stanley Cup title and another finals appearance behind

Pittsburgh rival Sidney Crosby.

Another postseason failure could even cost Boudreau his job.

”They were a desperate hockey team and we didn’t match their

work ethic and their enthusiasm,” Capitals forward Matt Bradley

said. ”There’s really no excuse for it, but it was one game. It’s

not like we played a bad game, we just didn’t play as well as we

needed to.

”It’s just a matter of getting back to that work ethic and the

good defensive play that we had the first two games and we’ll be

fine. We’re not going to dwell on the last game. It’s up to us now

to turn the tide.”