Alan May: Caps need to play fast, score ugly
NEW YORK -- Looks like the on-ice battle between Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh and Capitals right wing Alex Ovechkin has escalated into a war of words in the locker rooms.
On Monday night, following the Rangers’ 4-3 win over the Caps in Game 3, McDonagh said he noticed Ovechkin “standing straight-legged, like he was tired,” just before Derek Stepan scored the game-winning goal with 6:25 remaining in the third period.
Ovechkin’s response on Wednesday?
“No, I felt normal,” Ovechkin said. “I don’t know why he say that. I thought our line played well, and we had solid chances but we didn’t sore. Of course, they try to find something [to say] if they win. Somebody looks tired, somebody looks lazy or somebody looks bad. I don’t care what they say.”
Rangers coach John Tortorella has matched his top defensive pairing of McDonagh and Dan Girardi against the line of Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Marcus Johansson since the start of the series, even moreso in Game 3 with the Rangers getting the last change at home.
Girardi [no points, 7 hits] is averaging a team-high 25:59 of ice time a game, while McDonagh [one assist, four hits] is averaging 22:47.
That’s just fine with Ovechkin, who said he doesn’t need to worry about getting hit when he goes into corners against Girardi and McDonagh.
“McDonagh is a good skater but they don’t play a physical game,” he said. “So that’s kind of nice to know that when you go to the corner they aren’t going to hit you because they play too much minutes out there and their energy level is going down. They block shots, they play safe and it’s a challenge.”
Through the first three games of the series, Ovechkin has one power-play goal, one assist and a team-high 14 shots while averaging 20:39 of ice time. He has created some of his best scoring chances with beautiful passes to Backstrom and Johansson.
“That’s because they’re gonna block the shot,” Ovechkin said. “If I see there’s no shooting lane and I’m going to waste my opportunities, I try to make a play to my partners.”
Clowe for Powe: Rangers fourth-line center Darroll Powe did not participate in the morning skate and has been ruled out for Game 4 with an apparent concussion. Powe collided with Caps right wing Joel Ward in the first period of Game 3 and took an elbow to the head. He appeared disoriented heading back to the bench and did not return. In his first two games in the series, Powe had no points and averaged 8:21 of ice time. He’s likely to be replaced by veteran Ryane Clowe who has missed the first three games of the series with an apparent concussion.
“We’ll see how it goes,” Clowe said. “I took contact for the first time [Tuesday] and feel pretty good, so hopefully I’m going.”
King Henrik: Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist [24-16-3, 2.05, .926] is one of three finalists for the Vezina Trophy, awarded annually to the NHL’s top netminder. Columbus’ Sergei Bobrovsky and San Jose’s Antti Niemi are the other finalists.
It is the fifth time in his career Lundqvist is a finalist. He won the award last season.
“It means a lot,” Lundqvist said. “I am really proud to be in that category. It’s been an interesting year. A different year. A shorter season. Tight schedule. Things maybe didn’t go our way all the time. When you have to work really hard to get back in the race and to finally get in, it’s just a big reward.”
Capitals center Matt Hendricks said Lundqvist is so strong positionally that it’s essential to run traffic through his crease to beat him.
“He stays back in his net and he’s like a sponge,” Hendricks said. “He absorbs everything.”