The ultimate do-or-die game in sports will be contested at the Verizon Center tonight after the Rangers’ pulsating 1-0 win over the Capitals in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals yesterday afternoon at the Garden.
The best-of-seven series is tied at three games apiece. The puck drops for Game 7 at 8 p.m.
“We are just going to have the same mentality we had coming into this game,” said Derick Brassard, who scored the game’s only goal. “We just played our game [and] had fun. It was positive. The guys were relaxed and that’s what we need to do tomorrow.”
The Rangers broke through 9:39 into the second period on Brassard’s second goal of the series. Brassard’s slap shot from inside the blueline deflected off of Capitals’ defenseman Steve Olesky and past Braden Holtby (28 saves).
“The crowd kept chanting [‘shoot the puck’ and] I didn’t see myself giving a pass to one of my teammates there. I think I had to shoot,” Brassard said. “They obviously want us to shoot. On the ice, it’s a little different. We try and make plays. Sometimes it can work. Sometimes it doesn’t work. I just took two steps and ripped it as hard as I could.”
“We needed it. There was desperation out there,” said Henrik Lundqvist, who made 27 saves to earn his seventh career shutout in the playoffs, and his first since Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals last May.
The Vezina finalist is tied with Hall of Famer Dave Kerr for the second-most Stanley Cup playoff shutouts in franchise history. Mike Richter’s nine playoff shutouts are most in team history.
“I felt like this was going to be the type of game where there were one or two goals, tops,” Lundqvist said. “My focus was on trying to shut it down.”
He was aided by a defensive effort that mostly limited Washington to shots from the outside as the Rangers finished with 17 blocked shots and outhit the Capitals, 33-28.
“We showed a lot of character and worked really hard,” Lundqvist said. “It was that type of game [yesterday] where you pay the price — big blocks, physical.
“Everybody contributed,” head coach John Tortorella said. “For us to sustain the forecheck and sustain some territory, we needed bodies.”
The Capitals did not have a power play in yesterday’s game, as the only penalties assessed to the Rangers were roughing minors to Derek Stepan and Dan Girardi in a scrum involving all 10 skaters on the ice at the final buzzer.
“We know what’s at stake when we put them on the power play. They can capitalize pretty quickly,” Ryan McDonagh said. “One thing that we said every time in-between periods is to use our legs, not our sticks. We have to dictate the tempo and forecheck to create penalties for them.”
Follow Rangers beat writer Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman.