Monday, April 18, 2011, 3:38 p.m.
Caps vs. Rangers Game 4 Thursday at 7:00 p.m. on CSN-HD
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By Ryan OHalloran
This Capitals-Rangers series, with one-goal games, tight defensive play, hard hitting and vocal crowds, is not Scott Hannans first postseason rodeo.
The veteran defenseman played his 76th playoff match in Sundays 3-2 loss to New York in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals.
So asked if there was a message he could provide his teammates before the Capitals return to Madison Square Garden for Wednesdays Game 4, Hannan provided valuable perspective.
Its to stay even keel, he said Monday morning. Theres an ebb and flow to series, to plays, to shifts. We have to stay on that track and not lose focus of our game plan. You have to stay the course.
Translation: Dont panic.
But even considering the Capitals postseason history? Even recently, theyve blown a 2-0 lead to Pittsburgh and a 3-1 advantage to Montreal.
This is so stupid, winger Jason Chimera saidfumed. Its such a dumb thing. Its a different team every freaking year. Its so dumb. Its a different team, a different era.
Different team, yes. Not here last year were Hannan, Jason Arnott, Marco Sturm, Matt Hendricks, Marcus Johansson, Michal Neuvirth, and playing a bigger role is Karl Alzner.
Different era? Not quite, unless you count the meltdowns of past decades.
Regardless, its up to the Capitals over the next two days to match what the Rangers brought to the ice Sunday desperation, physicality and drawing penalties.
Desperation. The Rangers modus operandi in this series is starting each period with a burst, something the Capitals know they have to equal in another must-have-it game for New York.
Were desperate now, Capitals defenseman John Carlson said. We know its even if we lose the next game and it will be a big game for us and that loss really didnt feel good and the way it happened.
Said winger Matt Bradley: We expected them to come out the way they did last game, with a lot of energy and playing physical. We have to match that.
Physical play. The Capitals started the series with a pre-emptive strike of sorts, taking the hitting game to the Rangers, just like they should on home ice. New York responded in its building, some of it dirty according to Bruce Boudreau (citing Marc Staals head shot on Mike Green).
The Rangers are not getting under the skin of the Capitals, who arent taking after-the-whistle or retaliatory penalties. Where the Rangers did win confrontations was in the corner for possession, including one that led to Brandon Dubinskys game-winning goal. Additionally, the Capitals have to do more to create traffic in front of New York goalie Henrik Lundqvist.
Whether its a series or the regular season, we talk about it every game, every day that if youre not going to the net, youre not going to score goals, Boudreau said. Its that simple. You have to do some things sometimes that are out of character. Some guys dont like driving to the net, but to win, you have to drive the net. You have to get in Lundqvists face when there are shots from the point. You have to win the battles below the circles. These are the things that are going to make you win or lose.
Penalties. Witnessing Boudreaus history the past four springs, it was telling he didnt publicly complain about the officiating after reviewing the Game 3 video. The Capitals were called for eight penalties compared to Rangers four and New York held a 7-3 power play advantage.
Its up to the Capitals to revive their want-to so more stick infractions arent called and prevent taxing minutes on the penalty killers.
Theyre all penalties where you dont need to reach in and put sticks on guys, Chimera said. I think there were four or five of them that were preventable.
Said center Boyd Gordon: We got into penalty trouble yesterday and it kind of screwed up the rhythm of everything. Some guys dont play much, some guys play too much on the kill.
The Capitals will return to practice Tuesday knowing they didnt play bad in Game 3 and are one win from seizing control of the series.
Were fine, Chimera said. We have a lot of confidence in here. Guys know that it was a bad loss but you have to move on, forget about it quickly in the playoffs, more so in the regular season. Were still in good shape.
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