NEW YORK, N.Y. – The New York Rangers had such a simple plan when they got home from Washington in an 0-2 hole against the Capitals: find a way to get one win.
It worked so well in a hard-fought 4-3 victory on Monday night that they are heading into Wednesday’s Game 4 at Madison Square Garden with the very same objective.
“All we were focused on is doing whatever we could to try to win a game,” Rangers coach John Tortorella said. “We did that, and now we need to try to win one more game, and we’ll see what happens from there.”
While the Capitals stayed off the ice on Tuesday to recover, the Rangers held a full practice. They were without forward Rick Nash, who was given a “maintenance day,” and Darroll Powe, who was injured on Monday and is unlikely to play in Game 4.
If the Rangers can win again Wednesday, they will assure themselves of hosting Game 6 after a game in between in Washington on Friday.
After netting only one goal in the two road losses—including a 1-0 overtime defeat in Game 2—the Rangers’ offence broke out. New York even scored a power-play goal and added another tally just as another advantage ended.
“We didn’t break,” said Rangers forward Derick Brassard, who had a goal and two assists on Monday. “I think our bunch was really positive. Guys were really confident that we tried to find a way to win the game. At the end of the game our top line came out strong for us. They were competing hard all game. They came out huge for us to get that goal.
That winner was scored by Derek Stepan, who deflected a pass from Nash in behind goalie Braden Holtby with 6:25 left in regulation. It was the Rangers’ second tiebreaking goal of the third period.
It never would’ve happened if defenceman Ryan McDonagh hadn’t deftly kept the puck in the Washington end just before it was about to leave the zone at the left point. McDonagh moved the puck to Mats Zuccarello, who got it to Nash for the winning play.
The moment was sweet redemption for the 23-year-old McDonagh, whose delay-of-game penalty when he inadvertently shot the puck out of play led directly to Mike Green’s overtime goal in Game 2 on Saturday.
“He makes a mistake, and to me that’s not a mistake, it’s just happenstance,” Tortorella said of the Game 2 penalty. “It never bothers him. It killed him after the game, but that’s what, at such a young age, that he has. He is able to recover and go out and play. It doesn’t surprise me at all how he handled himself.”
McDonagh also has the daunting task of trying to keep top Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin in check. Ovechkin had no points while logging over 22 minutes of ice time in Game 3.
Ovechkin wasn’t one of the few players the Capitals made available to reporters at the team hotel on Tuesday, but coach Adam Oates addressed comments from McDonagh that Ovechkin seemed tired before the Rangers scored the winning goal.
“I don’t think he was tired,” Oates said. “I think that I didn’t do a good enough job getting him in his rhythm, probably because of penalties.”
The Capitals were short-handed six times and received only three power plays of their own. The last came with 1:54 remaining after Ovechkin was high-sticked by Brad Richards.
Washington pulled Holtby for an extra skater, giving the Capitals a 6-on-4 skating advantage, and put on lots of pressure in the Rangers’ end. While the Capitals controlled the puck as time ran down, they never got a shot in on goalie Henrik Lundqvist.
“They did a really good job of protecting him,” Oates said of Lundqvist. “We probably just could have tried a better way to get to the net just to start the process of him not being able to cover his rebounds, get to the second waves. We were probably too cute with it.”
The Capitals scored on two of their seven power-play chances in their two wins.
“These guys have been through this before. It’s playoffs. You’re not going to win every game,” Oates said. “There are a lot of things we could fix. You have got to give them a little bit of credit.”
Outside of Powe’s injury, the Rangers continue to get healthier. They got forward Brian Boyle back earlier in the series, and he had a goal and assist on Monday, and defenceman Marc Staal returned in Game 3 from a serious eye injury sustained on March 5.
Rugged forward Ryane Clowe has been sidelined by a suspected concussion since the final week of the regular season. He went through battle drills in practice on Tuesday, and might be able to rejoin the lineup in Powe’s place on Wednesday.
“Like any other player, you want to play,” Clowe said. “Sometimes it’s not thinking about the smart decision. At this time of year, I want to play. I did some contact stuff on ice, some battle stuff I haven’t done yet. I felt pretty good, and we’ll see how the rest of the day goes.”