The Eastern Conference semifinal series between the New York Rangers and Washington Capitals has the potential to last three more games, but if there was ever a must-win game, it's Game 5 with the series tied at two apiece. Monday night's game at Madison Square Garden (7:30 p.m., NBCSN) figures to be the lay-it-all-out-on-the-line type of game, with the victorious team coming out with a distinct advantage in Game 6.
After such an uplifting Game 3 win in which the Rangers prevailed in three overtimes, New York was dominated for stretches of its Game 4 loss. Even though they had a chance to win the game until the bitter end, the Rangers didn't come out with the energy needed in the first period, so they had to play catch-up in the second. They'd score twice, but a third-period penalty cost them the game, breaking the 2-2 tie into what ended up being a 3-2 loss. Granted, there also were also a few missed penalty calls in the third, but a testy Rangers locker room and coach, did not want to discuss the officiating.
What the Rangers need to understand heading into the pivotal Game 5 is that they still have home-ice advantage and are very much in the thick of this series. Perhaps the 114 minutes, 41 seconds of the prior win took its toll on the heavily-used core group that it was hard to start with a jump in the last game in Washington.
The encouraging aspect of the loss is that Marian Gaborik has scored in two straight games, after going scoreless since the first game of the playoffs. Artem Anisimov also was the most engaged he's been all seres, putting up a goal and an assist. Chris Kreider made a bone-head pass that led to a Caps' goal, and as a result, he only played 7:34. One would expect his game to improve from the last forgetful one.
What's clear about this series is that these two teams are very evenly matched and their styles mirror each others. Every game, except the Rangers' 3-1 Game 1 win, has been decided by one goal. Each team has one once and lost once on home ice. Nothing less should be expected in this game, but the Blueshirts need to come out with more desperation than they showed in the last one, and the Garden crowd should help out in that regard.