- Last Updated: 8:59 AM, May 10, 2012
- Posted: 3:13 AM, May 10, 2012
WASHINGTON — In order to get to the Battle of the Hudson, the Rangers must still prevail against the team from the Potomac.
But if the Rangers bring the same type of effort into Saturday’s Game 7 at Madison Square Garden against the Capitals, made necessary by their insufficient work in last night’s 2-1 defeat in Game 6, then the Devils will be our area’s lone representative in the Eastern Conference final.
“For whatever reason, we didn’t do enough to try and end their season,” Brian Boyle said after the Rangers failed to clinch. “We knew they were going to be desperate.”
That was pretty much the theme throughout the room last night following a match in which the Rangers did not score against Braden Holtby until Marian Gaborik banked one in from the right circle at 19:09 of the third with Henrik Lundqvist pulled for the extra attacker.
This means the Rangers have managed to score only one pure five-on-five goal over the last 144:52 since late in the second period of Game 4, that on Anton Stralman’s bad angle shot in the first period of Game 5.
“I didn’t think we were very good,” Marc Staal told The Post. “At times we got some pressure and we were getting shots, but we weren’t good enough getting to the front and making it difficult enough for [Holtby].
“We didn’t possess the puck the way we needed to.”
The Rangers fell behind at 1:28 of the first when Alex Ovechkin scored on a power play scorcher from the slot after a tripping call against Stralman just 1:13 into the match and then by 2-0 midway through the second on Jason Chimera’s tap-in from the left porch after a series of lost puck-battles.
There was much focus on the Rangers’ failure to score on five power plays that included a 4:00 advantage in the second period when Jeff Halpern cut John Mitchell with a high stick (“Sucked, it kills you,” coach John Tortorella said of that missed opportunity), and that impotence was obviously a factor, but doesn’t explain away the team’s inability to score at even-strength.
Indeed, the Rangers have scored one five-on-five goal over the last seven regulation periods since Tortorella moved Derek Stepan out of a top-six role into the middle between checking wings Brandon Prust and Ruslan Fedotenko — neither of whom has scored a goal in the playoffs — while shifting Brian Boyle between Artem Anisimov and Ryan Callahan.
Meanwhile, Chris Kreider has barely played since committing two defensive zone gaffes in Game 4, the neophyte appearing tentative while getting 6:06 last night on a line with Mitchell and Mike Rupp after getting 6:57 on that unit in Game 5.
The Rangers have scored at least three goals in just four of their 13 playoff games, needing overtime twice to get to that many. They have scored as many as four only once, that in their 4-2 victory over the Senators in Game 1 of the opening round.
The Rangers, who outshot Washington 31-23 and out-attempted the Capitals 68-42 (24 New York shots blocked), have not held a third period lead for so much as a second in this series since Game 1.
“The [4:00 power play] was definitely a big part of it, we had the opportunity to grab it there but I don’t think our overall game was near as good as it was in Game 5,” said Brad Richards. “Obviously we didn’t want to take that [early] penalty, and we did get better as the game went on but we didn’t take the next step.”
The Rangers didn’t take the next step and now they play their second Game 7 at the Garden in two series, having beaten the Senators 2-1 in the first-round showdown to advance to the Eastern Conference semifinals.
The Capitals, meanwhile, prevailed in a first-round Game 7 in Boston, defeating the defending champion Bruins 2-1 in overtime.
“I don’t know if there’s any advantage either way,” Stepan said. “We have to improve our play. We have to compete.”
If the Rangers don’t do that and can’t figure out a way to score, the Eastern Conference final will be an Acela Series, not a Battle of the Hudson.