Rangers At Capitals NHL Playoffs Game 5: Season Ends For New York

The Rangers' season is over after they fell, 3-1, in Game 5 against the Capitals.

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Capitals 3, Rangers 1: Rangers Season Comes To An End

Before Game 5, John Tortorella was quoted as saying that he had a good feeling about the club and that the team would be ready to play. It's quite possible they came ready to play -- that's still up for debate -- but one thing is for sure: the Washington Capitals came with a killer instinct and they came ready to prove why they were the East's best team this year. The Blueshirts season is over after their 3-1 loss to the Capitals, in a game that the Rangers really had no chance of winning from the get-go.

If all you caught was the first shift of the game, then you might've thought it was going to be a good one for the Rangers. The Brandon Prust-Brian Boyle-Sean Avery line came out with energy and created a scoring chance right off the bat. After that, though, the Caps, along with their fans chanting "We are louder!" took it to the Rangers. Mike Green scored a power-play goal six minutes into the game. The first period basically seemed like a continuation of Game 4's third period in which the Rangers choked away a three-goal lead. The Rangers couldn't win a single puck battle and they rarely were able to start their forecheck which they need to be successful. The Caps outshot the Rangers, 13-6, in the first period and took nearly 30 shots on goal that were either blocked or missed the net. It was a miracle that this period ended with the away team only one goal down.

So many times this season you saw the Rangers play a bad period and bounce back with a heightened effort the next period. The Caps were too good in this one, however. Despite the Rangers holding a 10-6 shot advantage in the period, the Caps blanketed the Rangers' forwards, not giving them a chance to really generate anything high quality and flustering their cycle down low. Alex Ovechkin lit the lamp seven minutes in on a partial breakaway when he caught Marc Staal pinching and it seemed like an impossible deficit to overcome.

As the third period began, the Rangers had 20 minutes left in their season and while we've seen them so many times come out with a vengeance, it wasn't the case this time. When they did get chances, Michal Neuvirth made some key saves. The problem was that for the majority of the game any shots the Rangers had were from far out, with nobody in front and in clear view for Neuvrith. Alexander Semin scored in the third (16:23) when the Rangers were trying to throw everyone up in the offensive zone and Wojtek Wolski scored a garbage goal with the Henrik Lundqvist pulled and 32 seconds remaining in the game.

While this is not the outcome any Blueshirts fan wanted to see, let's be completely honest with ourselves. When this season started, what were your expectations? Nobody really expected the Rangers to even make the playoffs (I know they barely got in) and with all the injuries they had to endure this year, they did prove one thing: for once, their youth prevails. The Rangers have a great core of young, blossoming players and a nucleus that should be around for quite some time. The front office needs to find a top-line center, but cannot overpay for Brad Richards, or sign him to crippling long-term contract. The top four defenders are set (and promising) -- maybe a veteran could be brought in to aid the third pairing, but the Rangers have enough youth in the back end to bring a few guys up next year as well.

For the first time in quite some time, despite the disappointment, Rangers fans can say that this 2010-2011 New York Rangers teams was a team to be proud of and that their team is on the right track.


NHL Playoffs: Capitals 4, Rangers 3 (2OT): Garden Loud, Then Quiet as Rangers Blow Game 4

The Rangers didn’t lost a game this season when leading after two periods. In Game 4, they led 3-0 heading into the final period, on their way to evening their series with the Capitals. They picked a heck of a time to blow a lead.

Jason Chimera scored in the second overtime after the Capitals completed a thrilling comeback. Chimera’s goal came on a miscommunication between Henrik Lundqvist and Marian Gaborik. Gaborik tried to clear a loose puck that Lundqvist came out to cover. Gaborik accidentally knocked the puck to Chimera, who was standing in front of the crease and an open net. It was a disheartening loss for the Rangers, as they now need to win three straight games to extend their season.

The first period went scoreless again but both teams came out physical, setting an early tone. The second period is perhaps the best 20 minutes the Rangers have played all season. Just over five minutes in, the Rangers scored another one of their ugly goals, as Artem Anisimov scored his first career playoff goal from behind the Caps’ net, banking the puck in off Matt Bradley. Then, in seven seconds, the Garden hit a fever pitch.

With under six minutes to go in the period, Ruslan Fedotenko skated out from behind the net to the circle with the puck on his backhand, sweeping the puck to the doorstep. Gaborik couldn’t miss if he tried, knocking the puck past Michal Neuvirth for his first goal in 12 games, and his first in the playoffs as a Ranger.

On the ensuing faceoff from center ice, the Capitals actually won the draw. But Fedotenko intercepted the puck and skated in on goal, firing a shot just wide of the net. He hustled to the loose puck behind the net, and with another slick backhand pass, fed the puck out to the slot where Dubinsky one-timed it past Neuvirth.

Whatever Boudreau said in his second intermission to his team worked. Just minutes in, Alexander Semin intercepted Ryan McDonagh’s clearance and puched the puck past Henrik Lundqvist. Then, before the blink of an eye, it was a one goal game when Marcus Johansson redirected a Jason Arnott pass in. It all seemed to happen so quick, and right after the Rangers killed off Sean Avery’s penalty, Johansson deflected a shot past Lundqvist. The game was tied, and the Garden was now quiet. The game went to overtime, where Chimera ended it.

The Rangers went 0-for-6 on the power play, being gifted a chance in overtime when the Caps were called for a bench minor for having too many men on the ice. The Rangers’ sorry power play is one of the main reasons their season appears to be all but over. The Rangers are a young, gritty, hard working team, but in the end they are one short on talent, especially offensive talent. Throughout the overtime, they forced Neuvirth into a few tough saves, but never really threatened to win the game. In the third period, their lack of experience showed as they scrambled around and essentially froze up, choking the game and their season away.

Lundqvist was brilliant. It’s a shame the game ended on a play where he was helpless.


2011 NHL Playoffs: Capitals At Rangers, Game 4

(Sports Network) – The New York Rangers will try to even the best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarterfinals tonight, when they host the top-seeded Washington Capitals in Game 4 at Madison Square Garden.

The Capitals won the first two tilts of this series on home ice, but New York responded with a thrilling victory in front of its fans this past Sunday. Brandon Dubinsky’s tally with 1:39 left in regulation lifted the eighth-seeded Rangers to a 3-1 victory in Game 3, cutting Washington’s series lead to two games to one.

Washington will try to keep recent playoff history from repeating itself, as the club has coughed up 2-0 series leads to lose its last two postseason sets. The Capitals also won the first two contests of the 2009 Eastern Conference semifinals before losing to Pittsburgh and last spring Washington held a 2-0 lead over Montreal and was ousted in seven games by the Canadiens.

The Rangers, meanwhile, have come back from a 2-0 deficit to win a seven-game series just once in their history and that was against Montreal in the 1996 conference quarterfinals.

"We have to make sure we don’t get too excited about this. We’re still down in the series and there’s still a lot of work to be done," said Dubinsky. "We have to make sure we get back to work as usual and correct mistakes we made and be ready for a tough Game 4."

Dubinsky’s game-winner started by carrying the puck along the goal line to the left of the Washington net. After a stick move near the crease, his shot popped in the air, and appeared to slide off Caps defenseman Karl Alzner before floating up and over Michal Neuvirth.

"We had too many guys in the corner in a 4-on-4 situation. Then, they come out and Dubinsky throws it at the net, it hits our guy in the shoulder, bounces over our goaltender and goes in the net. It counts," was all that Capitals head coach Bruce Boudreau offered about the deciding goal.

Vinny Prospal and Erik Christensen also scored for the Rangers in Game 3 and Henrik Lundqvist made 23 saves to earn his first win of these playoffs. Lundqvist is 15-18 overall in his playoff career.

Alex Ovechkin and Mike Knuble scored for the Capitals and Neuvirth played well in defeat, stopping 32 shots.

Ovechkin has two goals and two assists in this series to lead Washington in playoff scoring. The Russian superstar has 22 goals in 31 career playoff games.

The Rangers, who were 20-17-4 at MSG this season, will try to even the series tonight or Washington could get a chance to close the set out when the clubs meet for Game 5 in D.C. on Saturday.


Capitals 2, Rangers 0: Rangers Fail To Generate Any Offense, Now Trail Series 2-0

The New York Rangers have been down 2-0 in a playoff series 20 times and have comeback to win the series only once (1996). After Friday night's 2-0 loss to the Washington Capitals, they'll need to do what practically no other team in the franchise's history has been able to do.

With the amount of times this Rangers team has faced adversity this season, it would not be a shock to see them string some victories together in this series. But if the scoring problems continue, this series could be done with two more games. The Capitals new style predicated on defense stymied the Rangers' attack, just as it did in game one. Scoring chances were rare, goals non-existent.

The Rangers came out of the gate ready to play hockey tonight, unlike Game 1 when they looked tentative. The team's style resembled their identity for much of the season, yet couldn't exactly mount anything substantial. They weren't able to parlay their strong first period, which they lead in shots, 13-7, into an early goal and as a result, the Capitals saw it as an opportunity to jump all over them in the second.

Two minutes and 11 seconds into the second period, Jason Chimera converted on a one-timer from Marcus Johansson, and the wheels fell off for the Rangers for the rest of the period. The next several minutes of the period the Rangers spent scrambling all over the place; they were out of position and were playing some of the most discombobulated hockey they've played all season. Ryan McDonagh took a questionable roughing penalty on Boyd Gordon and the Jason Arnott would beat Henrik Lundqivst after a bouncing puck found his stick to put the Caps up, 2-0. John Tortorella then called a timeout to calm his guys down, but it was too late.

The Capitals outshot the Rangers, 8-3, in the second period and quite frankly, the Blueshirts barely had the puck at all in the second frame. Any chance they had off rushing up the ice was often negated by terrible passes, offsides (Sean Avery had four or five in the game) or bad bounces.

The third period was a much different story but it really didn't matter in the end. The Caps played some stout defense and protected their lead well. The Rangers greatly controlled the puck possession of the period, but the Caps only allowed them to take six shots on net -- and when Michal Neuvirth was called on to make a key stop, he did. The Sean Avery-Brian Boyle-Brandon Prust line was seemingly on every other shift and it was extremely effective cycling and mustering a resemblance of offense. Don't expect Avery to sit out the next one as he was the Rangers best player on the ice (which is not a good thing, but is encouraging for him) and showed his agitative self as well.

In the end, the Rangers had two period-ending power plays that were just plain awful. They are now just 1-for-31 in their last 11 games and it's really been an Achilles' heel of this team lately. Altogether, though, the Rangers only lost by two goals. Henrik Lundqvist continues to be brilliant in net -- he made 16 saves, but many of them high-quality chances. They are sticking with a much more talented, top-seeded team and just need to find ways to get the puck in the back of the net. If they play like they did in the second period, this series will be over in a heartbeat. They need to consistently play their style of hockey -- and most importantly, start throwing more pucks on net. Neuvirth has been solid, but he hasn't been tested enough.  Getting more offensive chances will be a must in Game 3.


Capitals 2, Rangers 1 (OT): Alexander Semin's Overtime Winner Sinks Rangers in Game 1

The New York Rangers were undefeated this season when heading into the third period with a lead. While they were tied heading into the third tonight, it was the Rangers who took the lead in the opening minutes of the final period. But this time, the Rangers couldn’t hold on to their slim lead, allowing the Washington Capitals to come back and take Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinals series 2-1 in overtime. Alex Ovechkin tied the game with just over 6 minutes to play in regulation, and Alexander Semin’s opportunistic goal late in the first overtime period sealed the deal.

It’s been well-noted that the Caps have employed a much different, defensive-minded style of hockey this season, and it showed in the first two periods. The Rangers, who don’t generate much offense anyway, didn’t trouble rookie netminder Michael Neuvirth much, while Henrik Lundqvist was asked to do a lot for the Rangers to keep the game scoreless through two periods.

But the Rangers drew first blood on the first NHL Playoff goal by defenseman Matt Gilroy. It was a prototypical hard-working play that led to the goal, with Brandon Prust’s tough forecheck creating the opportunity. Wojtek Wolski set uo Gilroy from behind the net, and for a team who held on to leads so well throughout the season, it seemed to be just what the Rangers needed.

Washington evened the game with just over six minutes to go in regulation on an odd goal. Ovechkin and Niklas Backstrom drove towards the Rangers net, and stuffed away at the pads of Lundqvist. It seemed as though the Rangers netminder had kept the puck out, but the puck found its way behind the goal line. The referees did not give the goal signal immediately since the net had come off its moorings, but the goal was awarded after a video replay. The goal gave the Caps all of the momentum, and even though the game went deep into overtime, the Rangers never gave the feeling that they were really a threat.

The overtime was fairly even and the game seemed destined for a second extra frame, but a costly giveaway by the usually dependable Marc Staal squashed that. Staal tried to clear his zone with under two minutes left in overtime, but the clearance was caught in the air along the boards by Jason Arnott. Arnott centered to Semin, who rocketed a one-timed slapper past Lundqvist, taking Game 1, and perhaps sinking the Rangers, who could have greatly benefited from a Game 1 victory.

A big reason that the Rangers never really threatened after giving up the lead, or really ever sustained any great offensive pressure, is the disappearance of Marian Gaborik, who is quite frankly playing as poorly as possible. Whether its John Tortorella’s forechecking, cycling system not fitting Gaborik’s game, or if he’s simply been ineffective, something needs to be done to jolt the Rangers winger or they’ll be sent home soon. New York simply does not possess the offensive firepower to keep up with the Capitals, who even with their new low risk system still control the puck and generate scoring chances.

The Rangers will battle and grind, as they have all year. They will certainly not cave; they are a resilient bunch. But without Gaborik’s offense, or anyone else stepping up in that manner, good effort will only get them so far.


NHL Playoffs 2011: New York Rangers At Washington Capitals Game 1 Preview

Despite the New York Rangers needing "help" to make the 2011 NHL Playoffs, this year's team was remarkably consistent given the fact that many of the players they were counting on to be big contributors were injured. Just four regulars played all 82 games this season, and the Rangers had to rely (for once) on their depth in the minors. What's different about this version of the Rangers, though, is that it has formed a true team identity -- one that predicates itself on out-working opponents. Tonight will be the first test of that identity when the games really matter as the Rangers visit the Washington Capitals for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Playoffs at 7:30 p.m. EST (MSG).

With a Game 1 preview all about setting the stage for what's to come, let's take a look at my keys to the series. Check out Joe's here.

1- Under John Tortorella, the Rangers have bought into his system and have formed a team identity that's admittedly not flashy but makes them a squad that's very hard to play against because they are hardworking, throw their bodies around, aren't afraid to sacrifice their bodies to block shots and are expected to play in both ends of the ice. If you don't buy into it, you don't play; there's no special treatment (just ask Marian Gaborik who sat for over 15 minutes against the Thrashers a few games ago). In the regular season, the Rangers have imposed their system on the Capitals and have shown that it works -- and being a much less talented team up front, they need to play this way to have a chance.

2 - The second key for the Rangers to win this series is getting pucks deep and working beneath the goalline. Sounds simple and boring, but it's when the Rangers do that that they're most successful. This team prevails when it dumps pucks deep in the zone, wins puck battles, establishes a forecheck and works from behind the goalline. They are not a finesse team who can work east-to-west and beat the Capitals with flair; they've played their best hockey when they play a north-south game and cycle the puck behind the net (which can be aggravating as a fan).

3 - Henrik Lundqvist. Plain and simple, if Lundqvist is on his game, he can win the series for the Rangers. I know there will be spurts when it will be Lundqvist vs. the Capitals and he'll need to be big. Lundqvist has played in 68 games this season, starting 26 straight because of Marty Biron's injury, but he's proven to be better the more action he receives -- and part of that is his overall mental toughness.

4 - Slowing down Alex Ovechkin. The tandem of Marc Staal-Dan Girardi has slowed Alex Ovechkin down to just two assists in the four games played, clearly frustrating him the past two games because they've played physically and been able limit his space. I don't expect him to have a quiet series - and it will be harder for Tortorella to match them against Ovechkin when they're playing on the road - but the Rangers' other pair, which consists of rookies Michael Sauer and Ryan McDonagh have grown immensely this season and will be counted on heavily as well to stop the Caps' most dangerous weapon.

5 - Scoring from all lines. The way Marian Gaborik has played this season, any scoring from him is icing on the cake, so I can't make him a key to the series. The fact is, this team has received contributions from all over this season (and lines have been interchangeable) - five players with 20-plus goals - and will need at least the top-three lines rolling because it makes them that much harder to match up against.

Tortorella has been mum about revealing his lines/scratches to the press, but revealed this morning that Matt Gilroy and Mats Zuccarello will be in. Steven Eminger and Sean Avery will sit. Michal Neuvirth is in goal tonight for the Caps.

Game 1 should be a fun one, so sit back and enjoy.

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