One four-letter word best describes what the Rangers-Capitals Eastern Conference semifinal series has been: Even.

Entering last night's Game 5, the teams have split the first four games — the Rangers winning Games 1 and 3 and the Caps taking Games 2 and 4.

The Rangers have scored nine goals in the four games while Washington has eight markers. Both teams have scored two power play goals.

Now that the series has become a best-of-three, don't expect things to magically change. John Tortorella doesn't.


"I think all series take on a life of their own. To me this has been an even harder series to play than the Ottawa series," Tortorella said Monday morning. "This has been a straight ahead, hard series and in most facets harder than the Ottawa series."

The one notable difference in Tortorella's mind between the seven-game endurance contest against Ottawa and what has transpired against the Capitals was Matt Carkner's on-ice mugging of Brian Boyle in Game 2.

"You've got all that crap that went on after Game 2," Tortorella said. "I forgot the player's name suckering our guy. All that stuff ends up being part of it."

Giroux suspended

The NHL announced Monday afternoon that Philadelphia Flyers center Claude Giroux was suspended for Game 5, in response to his shoulder to the head of New Jersey Devils winger Dainius Zubrus late in the second period Sunday night.

"It looks like the textbook hit they are trying to get out of the game," Peter DeBoer said in his post-game press conference Sunday night. DeBoer also noted that NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly were at the game. "I am sure they will look at that."

Giroux received a two-minute minor for illegal contact.

Kreider quiet in second round

It is a hell of a scenario that the Rangers and Chris Kreider find themselves in.

The just-turned 21-year-old is making his NHL debut at the most important time of the season — for a team with Cup aspirations.

Kreider has two goals and three points in nine games, but is minus-two. His defensive zone giveaway in the first period Saturday directly led to Alex Ovechkin's game-opening goal. Kreider was virtually benched for the remainder of the game, skating just 7:34.

"I've learned about him already just being around him," Tortorella said of Kreider. "This is not the time to put a young man through the process. That's going to go on next year. We're hoping he gives us something in certain aspects of the game.

"It's a very tough situation for such a young man. I think we'll find out more about him when we go through the grind of a National Hockey League series."

Follow Rangers beat writer Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman.

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