The Rangers are in a series where they’ve only scored four goals in three games, and that has everything to do with an impressive defensive job on a Capitals team that boasts world-class talent.
The Capitals have scored two goals in each game and can go up 3-1 in the series tonight at the Garden. Washington’s best player, Alex Ovechkin, has recorded four points (two goals and two assists) and four penalty minutes in 22:03 of ice time per game. The former NHL MVP, though, was held scoreless and to a minus-1 in 42:22 during the four regular season matchups.
“Our defensive pair has done a pretty good job. But if you’re going to contain him, it has to be a group of people,” Blueshirts coach John Tortorella said. “He stays out there so long that it’s not always that defensive pair. So it’s just being aware. You’re not going to stop him completely. He’s too good of a player. So it’s trying to limit him.
“It starts with the defense. It starts with some saves by Hank, too. But it’s going to take a group of people to stop some of their forwards. They’re that skilled. We’ve done a fairly good job of defending in this series.”
-- Let’s just say that the Rangers disagree with Bruce Boudreau’s assessment of Madison Square Garden.
Boudreau complained to a Washington D.C. radio station Monday about the state of the visiting dressing room and visitor’s bench at the Garden, before suggesting that the Verizon Center was a louder building.
“It was a loud building. It was an awesome atmosphere. In college, you have a cheering section and that’s it. It’s a whole new world, here. It’s been exciting and, so far, a great series,” Derek Stepan said.
“The Boston game at the end of the season. I guess you can consider that a playoff game. That was the best it’s been. I mean, all year long. That was the most intense I hear it. Montreal, too. We had a Montreal game where Prustie started the game with a fight. That was another night when the building…you could just tell when you came onto the ice right before the game even started (and) the building was buzzing,” Stepan said. “I thought it was loud. I didn’t think it was tentative at all. It was a great atmosphere and I think it will amp up a little bit (for Wednesday night’s Game 4). I thought it was great.”
-- Erik Christensen’s power play goal Sunday did not cure the Rangers’ ills with the man advantage. But it was a tablespoon of antibiotic for a unit that entered the game 1-for-31 dating back to the end of the regular season.
Christensen’s power play goal 5:30 into the second period in the Rangers 3-2 win over Washington was their first of the series. The Rangers are 1-for-15 in 18:33 of ice time with the man advantage. The Rangers rank 12th in the NHL with a 9.1 percent success rate on the man advantage. Only Philadelphia, Boston, Pittsburgh and San Jose are worse.
“Erik scores a big goal for us, but we have some work to do on it,” Tortorella said. Later he said the improvement in the power play was that the Rangers “scored a goal.”
Christensen told Metro after the game that he thought the power play improved in the final two periods Sunday afternoon. Marian Gaborik agreed with that assessment following Monday’s off-ice practice.
“Once we get into the zone, we’re fine. They’re pretty aggressive when we’re in the zone. So we just have to move the puck and try to get shots through even more, like we have and we’ll be okay. Erik scores a nice goal and it’s an unexpected shot. No one expected it and it’s in the net,” Gaborik said. “We have to do that more, get the shot through. They’re doing a good job blocking so we have to find a way to get around them.”
It would benefit the Rangers power play if Gaborik would be able to find the back of the net. The right wing finished the regular season with 22 goals in 62 games, and has not scored a playoff goal since 2007. Gaborik has 11 shots on goal and an assist in the three games. He is averaging 23:37 of ice time in 29.3 shifts.
“I feel pretty good out there. My legs (are moving). I can tell that the goals that are scored are along the net,” Gaborik said. “I feel pretty good. Hopefully something will get in soon. Just got to keep skating and drive the net and be responsible defensively and create chances.
“When you’re skating, things are happening. I feel like I move my legs well. I just have to keep doing that. Drove the net and goals are scored right in the crease, right in the goal. So just have to drive the net and find something there.”