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Thursday, April 21, 2011
Rangers practice notebook: Torts' guarantee

By Matt Ehalt



GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- He’s not going to guarantee a victory, but Rangers coach John Tortorella will guarantee there will be no lasting negative effect from the crushing 4-3 double-overtime loss to the Capitals on Wednesday.

“We’ll be ready to play Saturday [in Game 5],” Tortorella said. “I guarantee you that, we’ll be ready to play Saturday.”

As the Rangers stand on the brink of elimination, now trailing 3-1 in the best-of-seven series, the team is confident it has the resiliency to bounce back heading into Game 5 on Saturday afternoon in Washington. The Rangers have never won a series in the 14 times in team history the squad has trailed 3-1 in a series.

“It’s what it is. We’re professionals, everybody has to move by these things,” forward Marian Gaborik said. “We have the next game on Saturday and we want to do everything so we can come up with the win. We need one win and go from there.”

Leading 3-0 after the second period Wednesday, a 2-2 series split seemed in the Rangers' future. The team had not lost a game all season after leading in the second period.

Then it all went wrong. Two quick goals made it a game. The Capitals later tied it toward the end of regulation, and in the second overtime, a Rangers gaffe led to an easy Caps goal. Goodbye 2-2, hello 1-3.

Now, the Rangers face their toughest task of the season: winning Game 5 on the road against the Eastern Conference’s top team.

“We’ve come back a number of times this year,” defenseman Marc Staal said. “Obviously it’s different looking at it in a single game but right now that’s the way we have to approach it going into Washington and winning one game and respond in a big way.”

The Rangers, after an off-ice practice Thursday, said all the right things. It may have been a demoralizing loss, but they know there’s nothing they can do about it now.

With their season on the line, the Rangers believe playing with little margin for error toward the end of the regular season helped prepare them for a scenario where one slip-up is the difference between an extra game and going home.

Down the stretch, virtually every game moved the Rangers up and down in the standings. They had to show toughness during the final month to pick themselves up after some bad losses, including one that put them on the outside of the playoff picture with one game left. They learned how to fight for each and every point with all their might -- and not let the pressure weigh them down.

To get into the playoffs, the Rangers had to beat the Devils on the last day of the season. While beating the lowly Devils at home is a world of difference from having to win in Washington in Game 5, there are similarities.

“Common thing is the biggest thing and that’s that we have to win. We have to win to keep it going,” forward Brandon Dubinsky said. “Whatever it takes we have to do it and I keep going back to it but this team has shown when our backs are against the wall and we have to accomplish something, we’ve been able to do it.

“I really believe in this group and believe that our guys in here, I know we are a good enough hockey club to beat those guys, we just got to go out and play our best game because we know they are going to play their best game.”

In two days, we'll find out if the Rangers were full of false confidence or if they had the fortitude to overcome the loss. Tortorella would be shocked if it isn’t the latter.

“I’ve been with them for how many months?” Tortorella said when asked why he’s confident the loss won't linger. “I know the team. I know who they are.”

GOOD AND BAD GABBY: Unfortunately for Gaborik, his first playoff goal won’t be the goal he’s remembered for when the series is over. Instead, it will likely be his role in the double-overtime score Wednesday night.

In double overtime with the score tied at 3-3, a puck deflected off a Ranger and moved toward Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, who readied himself to cover the loose puck. Gaborik, who said he did not know Lundqvist was going to cover, tried to clear the puck and it landed right in front of Washington’s Jason Chimera, who scored the easy goal with 7:52 left in the second overtime to stun the crowd at MSG.

“I should’ve seen Hank going for it I guess,” Gaborik said. “It was just kind of a fluky goal.”

That play overshadows perhaps Gaborik’s best game of the series, as he scored for the first time in a month. With the Rangers up 1-0, Gaborik took a perfect back-handed pass from Ruslan Fedotenko and scored from right next to the net to give the Rangers a 2-0 lead. Gaborik took just four shots in the game, but appeared more confident on the ice in his 28:21 of playing time, even having a breakaway chance in overtime.

“I felt good, chances were there, too bad a couple of those didn’t go in but I have to carry it over,” Gaborik said. “Obviously the play at the end of the game, it’s a bad bounce there, but I have to jump over it and put it behind and focus on the next game. It’s no sense to beat yourself with that because it is what it is and I have to go forward and focus on the next game and take positives from Game 4.”

THE POWER PLAY: By now, the Rangers' power play struggles are old news. Just 1-for-18 in the playoffs, after a 1-for-27 stretch to end to the regular season, the Rangers' power play simply isn’t effective. In Wednesday’s loss, the Blueshirts managed just four shots on seven attempts.

“When we approach Saturday, we’re going to need that, something good is going to have to happen with that,” Tortorella said. “We know that. We’re trying to fix it. They’re trying to do well with it. We’ll see how it goes as we go through the next couple of days.”

Gaborik added that the team has to try and get more shots through and shoot whenever there is an opening, instead of waiting for another opportunity to present itself.