After a game that lasted 114 minutes, 41 seconds, two off days couldn't have come at a better time for the New York Rangers and Washington Capitals in their Eastern Conference semifinal series. Coaches and players alike seem to love to tout the old cliche that one game is a new challenge and the result of the previous one has very little affect on the next one. But, it's still hard to imagine that's 100 percent true in this case.
Marian Gaborik's goal in the third overtime propelled the Rangers to a Game 3 win and 2-1 series advantage. It came at a place New York hasn't won at in five starts and came from a player, one that put up 41 goals in the regular season, that has struggled for much of the postseason, scoring one time before then -- and that came in the first game of the playoffs.
Saturday's Game 4 -- 12:30 p.m. EST, NBC -- then, is a chance for the Rangers to really grab a stranglehold on the series after winning a grueling and emotionally-challenging game Wednesday.
For the most part, since the the latter half of the first-round series, the Rangers have returned to their gritty, hard-working, defense-first style. They've come out on top in four of their last five games, with the resiliency really showing through in the last marathon match.
Despite the slight series edge, the Blueshirts could still use a more traffic in front of the Caps' young netminder, Braden Holtby. They've taken far too many long-range shots that Holtby can see without any disruption. The team defense has generally been there all series, and even though the Rangers only scored two goals Wednesday, the offense is coming, and it starts with getting their prime-time scorer, Gaborik, on track, which they have to hope occurred with him scoring the winner in Game 3 in such a pressure-packed, do-or-die situation.
When a team gets three lines going, with the ability to put the puck in the net, it becomes very tough to match up against. Coach John Tortorella has tinkered with the lines again with that goal in mine; he's moved Artem Anisimov to the third line and is now utlizing Chris Kreider on that line with Derek Stepan. He's also put Ryan Callahan on the "checking" line with Brian Boyle and Ruslan Fedotenko.
The Rangers are 3-1 on the road this postseason, while the Caps are 1-3 on home ice.
Saturday, May 5, 2012, 12:30 PM EDT