W2W4: Rangers vs. Caps

May, 7, 2012
5/07/12
2:43
PM ET
At a glance: The Rangers return to New York facing a familiar scenario with the series tied 2-2 heading into a Game 5 at Madison Square Garden. The Rangers had to beat the Senators twice after dropping the pivotal swing game in the first round and hope to make it easier on themselves this time around. Meanwhile the Capitals are coming off a 3-2 win in which Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Green all scored. They’ll be in good shape if their big three contribute again; Washington is 13-0 in games during which all three tallied goals.

Hate factor: There has yet to be a fighting major in the first four games – strange, considering the Ramgers lead the league with 65 – but that doesn’t mean the series has lacked for intensity. Said defenseman Dan Girardi: "I think there might be a little of a hate factor… We want to make it to the next round, so do they, and there are a lot of great hits out there. Guys are doing what it takes to win. Just because there aren't a lot of scrums and all that doesn't mean we don't hate each other."

Off the hook: The most controversial play of the series was Ovechkin’s hit on Girardi in Game 4. Ovechkin left his skates to deliver the blow, although the principal point of contact was disputed. The league sided with the superstar forward, who faced no hearing or supplementary discipline for the charging penalty.

Block party: One of the reasons the series has been so tightly-contested? The Rangers and the Capitals are two of the best shot-blocking teams in the league. Combined the two teams have blocked 182 shots – 81 in Game 3’s triple-overtime marathon alone – with Washington setting the pace with 105. Before Monday's game, Caps coach Dale Hunter praised his players for their sacrifice: “It’s a commitment to make and for them to do it, it hurts,” he said. “They have to know and get rewarded for it.”

Not yet: Although Mats Zuccarello skated with the Rangers in the team’s morning skate, he is not available to play Monday according to coach John Tortorella. Zuccarello has not played since March 23 because of a broken left wrist.

Rookie response: After committing a brutal giveaway that led to Ovechkin’s first-period goal Saturday, Rangers rookie Chris Kreider was benched by coach John Tortorella for most of Game 4. He was limited to a mere 7:34 in ice time – only one shift in the third period – but said it was the “right decision.” How will he respond Monday?
Katie Strang covers the Rangers, Islanders and Devils for ESPNNewYork.com. She is a graduate of Michigan State University and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.
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