Rangers

Hartnett: Rangers Prove Mettle In Game 3, Riding Wave Of Confidence

No Team Wants Any Part Of Transformed Rangers
Derick Brassard of the New York Rangers celebrates his power-play goal. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Derick Brassard of the New York Rangers celebrates his power-play goal. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

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‘Rangers Inside And Out’
By Sean Hartnett
» More Columns

The Rangers stepped onto the Garden ice under the weight of a 0-2 series hole. Many denounced them as a defeated, lifeless team. Game 3 was a swing game and the Rangers played with a point to prove. When they final buzzer sounded, they walked off the ice as a transformed team.

Henrik Lundqvist later described Game 3 as a  “must-win.” The Blueshirts were able to swing the pendulum back in their direction by defeating the Capitals, 4-3, in a back-and-forth contest where their mettle was tested. Now, they must keep their foot planted firmly on the pedal and keep momentum on their side when Game 4 gets under way on Wednesday night.

Brian Boyle’s recommendation? Keep it going, keep searching for more and never be satisfied. Sounds like the words of a winner to me.

“We have to keep shooting pucks and try to keep generating,” Boyle stated. “Be a little tenacious. Don’t be satisfied with one win and four goals, you have to keep going.”

BOYLE SETS THE TONE

Boyle demonstrated an obvious level of tenacity and led the way by getting in the dirty areas of the ice. His first-period tying goal paved the way for the Rangers’ fightback.

Head coach John Tortorella noticed the clear tone set by Boyle in Game 3.

“He could’ve been one of our best players on the ice,” Tortorella said.

PLAYMAKING BRASSARD BACK ON HIS GAME

Derick Brassard was quiet in Washington, but he broke out on Monday. Brassard caught fire immediately when he pulled on a Rangers jersey by scoring 11 points in 13 games after being acquired from Columbus.  In Game 3, Brassard rediscovered his best game and was involved on three of four Rangers goals.

“For me, coming into this game, I just wanted to make some plays and come back to the game I was playing,” Brassard explained. “I wanted to make a difference, but guys were making plays all around and we had some good finish.”

Mats Zuccarello spun near the side boards and Brassard finished with aplomb, beating Braden Holtby stick side. His goal gave the Blueshirts a 2-1 lead before Capitals hot-scoring defenseman Mike Green evened the game by scoring through traffic.

With the scoreboard reading 2-2 as the third period got under way, the momentum was up for grabs both in Game 3 and the series as a whole.

Brassard demonstrated his top-level vision by sliding an expert pass directly onto the tape of Arron Asham. While goal scoring isn’t typically the strongest  aspect of Asham’s game, he has a sneaky way of scoring important goals and tied the game at three.

“I’m not out there too much, I try to do what I can when I’m out there,” Asham stated. “Brass made a great play.”

For Brassard, his three points in his home playoff debut was the most by a Ranger since Sergei Zubov recorded the same number of points against the  Islanders on April 17, 1994.

STEPAN AND NASH’S BREAKOUT ON GAME-WINNER CAN BE HUGE GOING FORWARD

After Jay Beagle scored a deflection goal past Lundqvist, the Rangers proved their fighting characteristics by not letting their heads drop. Derek Stepan said the Rangers’ bench never wavered in confidence and stayed positive.

“It was kind of up an down, the flow of the game,” he explained. “As a team, we just stuck together. On the bench everyone had a good feeling.”

Both Stepan and Nash were the Rangers’ two highest regular-season point-getters, and they were held down for the majority of the series. It’s crucial for the duo to get going and they picked an ideal time to break out.

Nash centered the puck and Stepan beat Nicklas Backstrom for position to score the game-winning goal with 6:25 remaining in the third period.

“It’s big,” Brassard said. “They came out huge for us. They’re our best players and that’s exactly why. They find a way to score a goal there, they’re competing hard for the last three games and they got rewarded there. It’s huge for us.”

RANGERS’ WAVE OF CONFIDENCE COULD CRUSH CAPS

Lundqvist was pleased by the way the Rangers measured up to a Capitals team that kept responding. Defenseman Dan Girardi performed like a warrior by blocking shot after shot in the final minutes. His battle level really summed up the desperation put forth by the Blueshirts in the final minutes to preserve their 4-3 victory.

“There was a lot of determination going into this game,” Lundqvist stated. “We knew we had to win this one, it was a must-win. We really stepped up as a group and they kept coming. They’re a good team and you have to respect that, but we scored some big goals tonight.”

Should the Rangers keep their foot on the gas like they did in Game 3, they’ll be a very difficult team to beat in Game 4. They’re finally resembling the team that finished the regular season strongly, a team that no division-winner wanted any part of in the first round.

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