Rangers even up series with Capitals
Rangers forward Brad Richards slides on the ice in front of Capitals forwards Mathieu Perreault (left) and Jason Chimera during Game 4 of their NHL Eastern Conference quarterfinal at Madison Square Garden in New York, May 8, 2013. (ADAM HUNGER/Reuters)
It turns out John Tortorella was simply ahead of his time.
After his New York Rangers dropped the first two games of their first-round playoff series against the Washington Capitals, the coach intimated things were “a hell of a lot closer” than most members of the media thought.
The comment caused plenty of people a to raise an eyebrow at the time, but there's no doubting Tortorella now.
Not after the Rangers earned a 4-3 triumph at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night to even this best-of-seven affair at two games apiece.
Not after a once-sputtering offensive attack has exploded for eight goals in the past two games.
“We’ve done better as the series has gone on,” said Tortorella. “The thing I like about our team the past couple of games is that we certainly have bent at times but didn’t break.
“Our resiliency has really shown in these past two games and we are going to need that as we go to Washington.”
Game 5 is Friday night at the Verizon Center.
“Now it’s time for us to get one in their barn,” said Rangers winger Carl Hagelin, who had a goal and two assists Wednesday.
One of the biggest reasons the Rangers were able to claw back after falling behind 0-2 in the series is that they’re a battle-tested group.
They didn’t panic as they returned home and they never lost faith in themselves.
“Our experience helped us,” said Rangers captain Ryan Callahan. “There’s a lot of guys who have gone deep before in the playoffs and that helps you, especially in a third period like that when it’s back-and-forth a little bit and a one-goal game late.”
The Rangers are making contributions throughout their lineup, starting with centre Derick Brassard, who has come to life after a quiet first two games, delivering a goal and five points in the last two.
Brassard’s most important contribution came in the opening minute of the third period when his cross-ice backhand found Dan Girardi at the left point for a one-timer that put the Rangers up for good.
Centre Derek Stepan produced the game-winner for the second straight game.
Even Brad Richards, the former Conn Smythe Trophy winner who had been quiet through the first three games, got on the board, taking advantage of the fact Tortorella had been double-shifting him.
The Rangers made the necessary sacrifices to win the game, finishing with 33 blocked shots.
“We do it all year. It is one of our foundations for success,” said Rangers defenceman Ryan McDonagh. “We trust guys being in the lane and we read off that as a unit of five out there. Guys get more excited on the bench at times for blocks than they do for goal scoring and nice offensive plays because we know it’s a huge part of our success.”
The Capitals got a pair of goals from Mathieu Perreault and one from Troy Brouwer, but Alex Ovechkin was quiet for a second consecutive game, finishing with only one shot on goal and one hit.
“I think our line (has) to play better,” said Ovechkin. “When we have a chance to go play in their zone we have to use it. Tonight we didn’t do it and I think we have lots of opportunities to score goals. They didn’t do something special.”
Capitals goalie Braden Holtby has come back to earth somewhat after turning aside 59 of 60 shots in the first two games, giving up eight goals in the last two — one of which was the result of his own turnover that was plucked out of the air by Taylor Pyatt and led to the Richards marker.
“We're trying not to think too much about momentum,” said Holtby. “We knew it was going to be tough and we'll regroup.
“Coming in, we didn't care how many games it took to win as long as we win four out of seven.”