NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — If the Rangers are going to come all the way back and knock out Washington, they need to figure out how to transport their Madison Square Garden offense to the nation’s capital.
The Rangers dropped the opening two games of the best-of-seven series to the Capitals and mustered only one goal in the process.
Upon returning home, New York generated eight goals in a pair of 4-3 victories to get even. The Rangers have won only one series in which they trailed 0-2. If they are going to do it this time they will have to win two of the next three and at least one in Washington.
“It’s big,” Rangers captain Ryan Callahan said after New York’s Game 4 win on Wednesday night. “We got ourselves in a bit of a hole to start the series, losing two on the road. Coming back here we were confident. We knew if we took these two at home we were right back in the series.
“That’s where we find ourselves.”
The key moment of New York’s latest win might have occurred off ice between the second and third periods, when coach John Tortorella and the team discussed the Rangers’ struggling power play.
New York had squandered a two-goal lead and the momentum in the second. But a fortuitous power play after the buzzer set up the Rangers to grab it all back.
And they did.
Dan Girardi made the most of Jason Chimera’s interference penalty, scoring the go-ahead goal 59 seconds into the third.
“We’ve done better as the series has gone on,” Tortorella said. “The game was a series of momentum swings for both teams. The thing I like about our team the past couple of games is that we certainly have bent at times but didn’t break.”
Derek Stepan also scored in the third for the Rangers, who built their second two-goal lead before holding on.
Girardi ripped a shot from above the left circle off a feed from Derick Brassard to give the Rangers the lead again.
“We had some lapses,” Capitals forward Joel Ward said. “They scored a power-play goal, and that was tough for us. Plus it is never easy to be down two goals as we were.”
Stepan made it 4-2 at 6:02, scoring into a wide-open net at the end of a give-and-go play in front with Carl Hagelin, who had a goal and two assists.
Game 5 will be in Washington on Friday before the series returns to New York on Sunday.
“We’re a confident group in here,” Hagelin said. “We do know we can’t play in Washington like the last game there. We’ve got to come in and play better.”
Brad Richards and Hagelin staked the Rangers to a 2-0 lead, but goals by Mathieu Perreault and Troy Brouwer tied it for Washington. The Capitals closed within 4-3 when defenseman Karl Alzner’s shot caromed in off of Perreault for his second of the game at 7:31 of the third.
Henrik Lundqvist, announced as a Vezina Trophy finalist earlier Wednesday, made 27 saves. Braden Holtby stopped 30 shots for Washington.
“So far we’re just taking care of business at home,” Lundqvist said. “Coming back home being down two games, we had a lot of pressure, but we stepped up. So far we just tied the series. We still need to do whatever we can to get the next one.”
Despite having a 26-15 shots advantage through two periods, the Rangers found themselves locked in a tie heading into the third. Washington was outshot 13-9 in the second, but scored twice in the final 6:52 to get even after Hagelin made it 2-0.
The Capitals began spending more time in the New York zone and making it increasingly difficult for the Rangers to get the puck out. The momentum was shifting, and the nervousness began to grow within the crowd as Washington’s puck possession became more dangerous.
It just wasn’t enough for the Capitals.
“I really have to play better,” said captain Alex Ovechkin, who recorded only one shot and was a minus-1. “When we have a chance to play in their zone we have to use it. Tonight we didn’t do it.”
Ward got the Capitals going when he led a strong rush up ice after the Rangers gave away the puck. Ward charged in, with Perreault, and made a hard move on defenseman Michael Del Zotto. Ward got Del Zotto down to the ice near the left post and feathered a pass through the crease to Perreault, who tied up Richards and slid in his first career playoff goal.
The Rangers appeared set to get out of the second with the one-goal lead they brought into it, but Brouwer’s first of the playoffs tied it with 17.1 seconds left in the period.
Hagelin’s second goal of the series doubled the Rangers’ lead midway through the second. Brassard, who had a goal and two assists in the Rangers’ win in Game 3, made a hard pass from the right point to the left circle that Hagelin fired into the top right corner of the net.
“We learned last year that this team we are playing doesn’t give up,” Holtby said. “And we don’t either.”
The Rangers had taken a 1-0 lead in the first off a gaffe by Holtby. The goalie drifted to his left to track down a dump-in several feet in front and wide of the net. His clearing attempt was knocked down by New York forward Taylor Pyatt, who moved the puck to Hagelin.
With Holtby well out of position, Hagelin’s shot at a net guarded only by defenseman John Erskine was saved by Erskine. The rebound bounced in front to Richards, who scored his first goal of the series and 28th in 87 career postseason games.
“We knew it was going to be a tough series,” Holtby said. “They played really well these last two games and there is some stuff we need to work on.
“It’s a three-game series now. We still have home-ice advantage.”
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