|WSH||0||0||0||(null - null)||5|
|NYR||0||0||0||(null - null)||3|
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By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
With their head coach watching from a suite high above the arena, the Rangers once again failed to close out their Eastern Conference Quarterfinals series, falling to the Washington Capitals 5-3 in Game 6 on Sunday afternoon at Madison Square Garden. The series, now even at 3-3, will be decided in Game 7 on Tuesday evening at the Verizon Center in Washington.
John Tortorella, suspended by the NHL late Saturday night for tossing a water bottle into the crowd in Game 5 at the Verizon Center on Friday, watched the Capitals score three times in the first period and two more in the second to drive Henrik Lundqvist from the nets for the second straight game.
“It was a big game, and we came up short,” stated Lundqvist. “It is definitely not over. We just have to regroup here, get ready for the next one. Game 7, anything can happen.”
Jim Schoenfeld, the club’s assistant general manager and interim assistant coach, ran the bench on Sunday. He was assisted by Hartford Wolf Pack head coach Ken Gernander and his assistant J.J. Daignault.
“We really had some huge individual breakdowns,” said Schoenfeld. “There is no such thing as a little thing because they turn into big things, which are goals against. We had some guys who were locked in and ready to go, and we had some other guys who wanted to test the water. That makes it tough to win a hockey game.”
This is the second straight spring that the Capitals have forced a seventh and deciding game after falling behind 3-1 in a first-round playoff series. Last year the Caps returned home to host Game 7 against the Flyers after winning Games 5 and 6, only to drop the decisive game in overtime.
“You have to have enough pride, enough courage, and enough want (to win a Game 7),” said Schoenfeld. “And I think our guys have that.”
Returning to The Garden after being thoroughly outplayed in Game 5 on the road, the Rangers sought to feed off the tremendous energy that was in their home building on Sunday. The Blueshirts were met with a deafening standing ovation when they hit the ice for the start of the game, and the club started with plenty of jump.
However, the Capitals remained poised, scored the first goal of the game, and proceeded to pump two more past Lundqvist before the opening 20 minutes were complete.
A pair of giveaways in their own defensive zone cost the Rangers on the first goal of the afternoon, scored by Washington defenseman Milan Jurcina. After getting away with one turnover, the Rangers coughed the puck up yet again in a failed clearing attempt, and Jurcina converted a Brooks Laich pass for his first playoff goal at 7:09.
The Rangers were able to answer back within two minutes, as the club’s power play came through for the first time since Game 1 of the series. Sean Avery -- back in the lineup after being scratched on Friday -- drew two Caps to him along the left-wing boards before banking a pass off the wall to defenseman Wade Redden at the left point. Redden stepped into a slap shot, and Scott Gomez -- positioned in front of the net -- deflected the puck past Caps goalie Simeon Varlamov to pull the Blueshirts even 1-1 at the 8:15 mark of the first period.
The goal was Gomez’s second of the series, and was his first point since he recorded three in the opener.
The 18,200 fans who packed The Garden believed that the Rangers should have had another power play -- likely a five-minute man-advantage -- when Washington’s Donald Brashear leveled the Rangers’ Blair Betts at center ice with an elbow to the jaw, which left Betts sprawled on the ice at 9:54. Neither of the referees blew a whistle, and the only penalties doled out were to Brashear and New York’s Paul Mara for coincidental minor roughing penalties when Mara jumped to Betts’ defense.
Meanwhile a wobbly Betts had to be helped off the ice, and did not return for the rest of the contest.
“It was a late hit to the head, and it was pretty vicious,” said Schoenfeld. “Bettsie didn’t see him coming, and he’s hurt significantly. The league will look at it and make their own ruling.”
Four minutes later, the Caps struck again to grab a 2-1 lead. Mike Green collected the puck on right wing after Rangers defenseman Michal Rozsival blocked an Alexander Semin shot and whipped it past Lundqvist for his first goal of the series at 13:58 of the opening period.
“A couple of bad bounces and they score, just shows you how explosive they are,” said Gomez. “We make some mistakes and they capitalize on them. That’s been the big difference. Every mistake we’ve made they turned around and put it in the net.”
Then a huge swing in momentum went in Washington’s favor, and resulted in the Capitals taking a 3-1 lead before the period was over. Under duress from the forechecking Ryan Callahan, former Ranger Tom Poti lifted the puck over the glass in his own end and into the crowd, drawing a delay-of-game penalty at 15:04.
On the power play, and with a chance to tie the game, the Rangers instead were shut down by the Capitals, and the worst-case scenario ensued when Poti came out of the penalty box, collected the loose puck, and started a 3-on-1 rush the other way. A precise passing sequence with David Steckel and Boyd Gordon culminated with an easy tap-in goal for Poti, his second of the playoffs, at 17:14.
“There have been breakdowns, and they capitalize on them, it’s a simple as that,” said Redden. “We have to be better, and we have to be stronger. If we make mistakes, we have to cover them up.”
Trailing 3-1, the Rangers needed a big effort in the second period to get themselves back into the contest, but it was the Capitals who controlled play and scored the only goals in the middle stanza. Viktor Kozlov scored at 9:21 and Alex Ovechkin tallied a power play goal at 16:44 to put the Rangers in a 5-1 hole through two periods.
Kozlov maneuvered around defenseman Dan Girardi and flicked an in-tight shot past Lundqvist for his second goal of the postseason, and then proceeded to crash into the Rangers’ goalie, sending Lundqvist into the back of his cage. Lundqvist was a bit shaken up, but not nearly as much as his team, which sensed that the opportunity to finish off the Capitals on home ice was slipping away.
After firing 11 shots on goal in the first period, the Rangers could not generate any offense for much of the middle stanza. In fact, more than halfway through the period, the Blueshirts had managed only two shots on goal. And the team’s best scoring chance -- which came seconds before Kozlov’s goal -- was backhanded wide of the net by Nikolai Zherdev with Varlamov badly out of position.
At 15:03 of the second, Brandon Dubinsky drilled Green behind the net and was penalized for boarding. In light of the non-call on Brashear earlier in the match, Dubinsky and the fans were irate at the penalty. Dubinsky wound up receiving an extra 10-minute misconduct penalty along with the original minor when he complained to the officials that he had been bit during the scrum by Washington defenseman Shaone Morrisonn.
“Dubinsky had to get a tetanus shot because he was bit,” explained Schoenfeld. “Then he gets a 10-minute misconduct when he tells the referee about it.”
To add insult to injury, the Caps converted on the power play -- their second power-play goal of the afternoon -- when Ovechkin tipped Poti’s slap shot between the pads of Lundqvist for his third goal of the series. The assist was Poti’s third of the game, as he upped his point total in the match to four against his former teammates.
The Rangers got a goal back early in the third period, scoring on a 5-on-3 power play. Callahan whipped a backhander from the slot past the glove of Varlamov for his second of the playoffs at 4:21. But the Rangers could not convert on the remainder of the power play, and still remained down by three goals.
Later in the third period, Callahan drew back-to-back penalties -- one on Ovechkin and the other on Gordon - and the Rangers had 1:12 worth of a 5-on-3 power play, but failed to score, thus guaranteeing a Game 7 Tuesday night on the road.
Defenseman Marc Staal did roof a wrist shot into the top of the net with 5.4 seconds left, but it was too little, too late for the Rangers.
“We have to erase this one from our memory, and as a team we have to rebound,” said Staal. “We won twice down there already. We can do this.”\
|Milan Jurcina (1) ASST: Brooks Laich (2), David Steckel (1)|
1 - 0 WSH
|PPG - Scott Gomez (2) ASST: Wade Redden (2), Sean Avery (1)|
1 - 1 Tie
|PPG - Mike Green (1) ASST: Alexander Semin (3), Tom Poti (2)|
2 - 1 WSH
|Tom Poti (2) ASST: David Steckel (2), Boyd Gordon (2)|
3 - 1 WSH
|Viktor Kozlov (2) ASST: Tom Poti (3), Sergei Fedorov (3)|
4 - 1 WSH
|PPG - Alex Ovechkin (3) ASST: Tom Poti (4), Nicklas Backstrom (6)|
5 - 1 WSH
|PPG - Ryan Callahan (2) ASST: Derek Morris (2), Scott Gomez (3)|
5 - 2 WSH
|Marc Staal (1) ASST: Lauri Korpikoski (2), Fredrik Sjostrom (1)|
5 - 3 WSH
|Shaone Morrisonn Interference against Lauri Korpikoski|
|Paul Mara Roughing against Donald Brashear|
|Donald Brashear Roughing against Paul Mara|
|Paul Mara Holding against Brooks Laich|
|Tom Poti Delaying Game-Puck over glass|
|Donald Brashear Hooking against Sean Avery|
|Brandon Dubinsky Misconduct (10 min)|
|Brandon Dubinsky Roughing against Shaone Morrisonn|
|Shaone Morrisonn Roughing against Brandon Dubinsky|
|Brandon Dubinsky Boarding against Mike Green|
|John Erskine Interference against Aaron Voros|
|Nikolay Zherdev Roughing against Milan Jurcina|
|Milan Jurcina Roughing against Nikolay Zherdev|
|John Erskine Holding against Nik Antropov|
|Nicklas Backstrom Hooking against Scott Gomez|
|Alex Ovechkin Elbowing against Ryan Callahan|
|Boyd Gordon Cross checking against Ryan Callahan|