The Rangers trail the Capitals, 2-0, in the best-of-seven series, and have scored only one goal in 128 minutes in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals.
For many coaches, it would be cause for concern. Head coach John Tortorella is not most coaches.
“I think [the first two games] have been a hell of a lot more even than a lot of other people think,” Tortorella said in his morning press briefing before Monday night’s Game 3 at The Garden. “I think we’re close. I will put it to you that way.”
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Part of the basis for Tortorella’s belief is that the Rangers have generated 60 shots on goal in the first two games, including Rick Nash hitting the post midway through a scoreless third period Saturday afternoon.
“Playoff series [are about] momentum [shifts] within the game,” Tortorella said “What if Rick Nash scores his goal in the third period [of Game 2]? [The momentum] changes.”
Most likely, Saturday’s games does change if Nash scores. But what did happen was Mike Green blasted a slap shot past Henrik Lundqvist eight minutes into overtime, and now the Rangers are in a must-win game.
“We need to win a game and that is all we are thinking about,” Tortorella said. “It means squat if you don’t win.”
Nearing full strength
Will the Rangers have all hands on deck Monday night?
Thirteen players participated in the optional morning skate at The Garden, including defenseman Marc Staal and left wing Ryane Clowe.
Staal has not played since March 5, when he suffered an eye injury when he was struck in the face by a Kimmo Timonen slap shot. Clowe has missed the last three games with an undisclosed injury suffered in the 4-3 overtime in Carolina on April 25.
“I feel pretty good,” Clowe said after the skate. “I [felt] pretty good out there. Obviously you guys want to know if I’m going to play tonight but I’m not sure.”
The Rangers acquired Clowe from San Jose on April 2. In 12 games with the Blueshirts, Clowe recorded three goals and eight points.
“Like anyone else at this time of year, no one is 100 percent. But when I come back I’ll definitely feel capable of doing everything that I think I can bring or the style I can play, which is obviously a physical style. I think that’s the key point I’m looking at here,” Clowe said. “Whenever guys come back, they’re not going to come back and put themselves at risk, even though we’re all tough guys and play through injuries. But more than anything, guys look at how they can help the team.”
Staal was unavailable for comment.
Follow Rangers beat writer Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman.