New York Hockey: NHL Playoffs 2013

Tortorella: 'It falls on me'

May, 25, 2013
John Tortorella Michael Ivins/USA TODAY Sports"It's a big part of my job to get your top players to play consistently, and I couldn''t do that," John Tortorella said on Saturday night.
BOSTON -- For as much as John Tortorella’s postgame news conferences have become a bit of a caricature -- often marked by his abrasive, confrontational and sometimes boorish demeanor -- he was sincere in claiming responsibility after his team’s season-ending defeat.

Following the Rangers’ 3-1 loss to the Bruins in Game 5, Tortorella offered up a lot of reasons the team struggled, both during the game, the series and the entire lockout-shortened season. But he put the onus squarely on himself, too.

One of the Rangers’ most glaring deficiencies was the underwhelming performances by some of the team’s top players. He placed the blame on himself.

"I think one of the big things in this series is I could not -- and it does, it falls on me -- it’s a big part of my job to get your top players to play consistently, and I couldn’t do that," Tortorella said.

The most obvious inability to make that happen came with struggling center Brad Richards, who won a Stanley Cup under Tortorella in 2004 while with the Tamps Bay Lightning.

Richards’ play deteriorated to such a degree that he was demoted to the fourth line then ultimately scratched for the last two games.

But, he was not alone in failing to step up.

Joining the former Conn Smythe Trophy winner in a disappointing playoff performance was newcomer Rick Nash, who notched only one goal in his first postseason as a New York Ranger.

The premier winger, acquired in a blockbuster trade with Columbus this past summer, was ineffective in both the team’s series against Washington and Boston.

The 28-year-old Nash was limited to just five points in 12 games and he didn’t score his first goal of the 2013 playoffs until Game 3 of Round 2. In Game 5 on Saturday, he didn’t get a shot on goal until the third period. Nash didn't even respond when Boston's Milan Lucic tried to bully him with a brutish few shoves to the chest; he just skated away with no response.

"It’s heartbreaking," Nash said in a brief postgame interview. "We have a good team, good season, and we just couldn’t get the job done."

Though he battled through a lingering wrist issue since midseason, he insisted he wasn’t dealing with an injury.

He clearly was one of those players Tortorella couldn’t get enough from.

"We tried, and so I need to take some responsibility and try to get them in those spots to help us here. I thought that hurt us a little bit," Tortorella said.

Even captain Ryan Callahan wasn’t the same type of tone-setting sparkplug or offensive catalyst his team has come to expect, though he had two goals during the playoffs.

Callahan had one of the best scoring opportunities of the game for the Rangers, but his backhanded breakaway attempt went wide.

"It sucks," Callahan said. "There’s no worse feeling than this. We had a good team this year. It’s frustrating."

Rapid Reaction: Bruins 3, Rangers 1

May, 25, 2013
What it means: Depth was the difference Saturday night, and the Bruins outmatched the Rangers in a 3-1 Game 5 victory at TD Garden that sent New York home for the summer. A rookie defenseman and an effective fourth line enabled the Bruins to secure a date with the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference finals, as the Rangers fell painfully short in a lopsided five-game series in which they were thoroughly outplayed. Gregory Campbell notched two goals, including an empty-netter in the last minute of play that made the home crowd erupt.

Difference-makers: The Bruins fourth line of Shawn Thornton, Daniel Paille and Campbell, a gritty trio that scored the deciding goal in Game 3, added another big one Saturday night. Capitalizing on a turnover from Rangers defenseman Roman Hamrlik, Paille made a cross-ice feed that bounced off Thornton to Campbell for the go-ahead goal at 13:41.

Kruuuuuuug: With his game-tying power-play marker in the second period, the fans at TD Garden were yelling "Kruuuuuuug!" in appreciation of rookie wonder Torey Krug. The 22-year-old defenseman scored his fourth goal in his first five playoff games, with a blistering one-timer that beat Henrik Lundqvist short side to knot the score at 1 at 3:48.

Power surge: No, that’s not a typo. For the second time in as many games, the Rangers notched a power-play goal with Dan Girardi’s slap shot that beat a screened Rask for a 1-0 Rangers lead at 10:39 of the first. The maligned unit has now tallied as many goals in the past two games as it managed on its previous 39 attempts during the playoffs.

Second scratch: For the second straight game, veteran Brad Richards was scratched. The struggling 33-year-old center sat out Thursday as the team faced elimination on Game 4, and, following the Rangers’ 4-3 overtime win, Tortorella stuck with the same lineup for Saturday.

Boost on back end: The Bruins returned Dennis Seidenberg to the lineup for the first time since the veteran defenseman was injured in the team’s first-round series against Toronto. Seidenberg replaced Dougie Hamilton, while rookie defensemen Matt Bartkowski and Krug remained in the lineup.

Rough stuff: Tough guys Thornton and Derek Dorsett dropped the gloves in the first period, a fight that kept going even after officials tried to separate the two players. Both received five for fighting and an extra two minutes for unsportsmanlike conduct. Dorsett racked up 11 PIM in total throughout the course of the game.

Kreider comes through in playoffs again

May, 23, 2013
Brian Boyle, Chris KreiderBruce Bennett/Getty ImagesChris Kreider scored the game-winning overtime goal at MSG.
Chris Kreider had the New York Rangers’ season on his stick.

"It wasn’t on there for a very long time," joked Kreider, whose redirection of Rick Nash’s pass 7:03 into overtime enabled the Rangers to earn a 4-3 victory over the Boston Bruins in Game 4 and stave off playoff elimination Thursday night at Madison Square Garden.

The Bruins still lead the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinals series 3-1.

But at least the Rangers are still alive.

Game 5 is Saturday afternoon at TD Garden.

"You guys have been kicking my ass all around all year long about [my not] wanting to play him, and he steps up and makes a big play for us," coach John Tortorella said after Kreider notched his first goal of the playoffs.

[+] EnlargeChris Kreider
Bruce Bennett/Getty ImagesKreider added to his playoff heroics from 2012 with an overtime goal.
Coming off an impressive postseason after being signed right out of Boston College in 2012, the 22-year-old "rookie" was supposed to play a pivotal role on this season’s team.

But after getting off to a sluggish start, Kreider was frequently sent down to the AHL, and Tortorella said at one point that he was "worried" about his young winger’s development.

Luckily, Kreider began picking up his play at the end of the season, and entered the playoffs on the team’s third line due to injuries to Ryane Clowe and Brian Boyle. Despite Kreider's leaving Game 3 after being struck by a high stick late in the third period, Tortorella decided to elevate Kreider to the second line with Derick Brassard and Nash.

And it was Kreider and Nash who combined for the OT winner.

The two wingers began skating up ice on a 2-on-2 breakout. Kreider dished the puck to Nash in the neutral zone and proceeded toward the net. Nash stopped on a dime at the right-wing boards and whipped a pass to Kreider, who beat Dougie Hamilton in the slot and redirected the puck over Tuukka Rask’s right shoulder, sending the sellout crowd into a frenzy.

"I tried to give it to Rick, which was something I was trying to do a lot tonight; he’s such a talented player," Kreider said. "And then I just tried to drive the net and put my stick on the ice, and he was able to find my tape. That’s what he does."

So, what’s it like scoring the game-winning goal at MSG, anyway?

"So surreal," said Kreider, who had five goals in 18 games during the 2012 postseason but had just two tallies in 23 contests this year. "Not something that can really be explained. It’s just something that has to be felt. It was awesome. Just exciting to give these guys an opportunity to play another day."

Said Derek Stepan: "He’s got a knack for doing that. Don’t forget that. He did it last year in the playoffs, too."

After the game, Kreider was peppered with questions about his up-and-down campaign.

But he didn’t feel like answering them.

"I think regardless of how people think the season went for me, I think I learned a lot," he said. "I was surrounded by unbelievable players, unbelievable coaches and staff, so I think it’s been a very positive year for me."

And, as a result of his goal, his team’s season continues.

"Like I said, there’s no quit in this room," Kreider said.

Tortorella cryptic about 'adjustments'

May, 18, 2013
BOSTON -- Rangers coach John Tortorella is usually unflinchingly blunt, answering questions with the delicacy of a sledgehammer, but he was cryptic in talking about his team Friday.

When asked if any significant adjustments were necessary following the Rangers' 3-2 overtime loss in Game 1, he conceded that some changes were needed. But he made an important distinction that piqued curiosity about what those might be.

[+] EnlargeJohn Tortorella
AP Photo/Nick WassJohn Tortorella was uncharacteristically cryptic on Friday.
"To me, it’s not so much on the ice," Tortorella said. "There’s some other adjustments we have to go through. I’m not gonna tell ya, but there are some other adjustments we have to go through and a lot of it really isn’t on the ice."

When pressed further about the nature of these "adjustments," Tortorella declined to elaborate.

"Don’t start pushing me on that," he said. "I really don’t want to talk too much about it."

Midway through the next question -- unrelated to the topic -- Tortorella circled back to the previous question: "I’ll answer that question later in the series," he said.

How much later in the series?

"I’m not sure."

Tortorella was asked if it was a mentality or focus issue, but he again declined to say anything else.

"I’m not saying that," he said. "I’ll answer that question later in the series."

Whatever Tortorella is not discussing with the media, whether it be mindset, preparedness, intensity level or a whole other slew of possibilities, rest assured he has already addressed it with his team heading into Game 2 on Sunday.

Despite two off days between games, the Rangers seemed a bit contentious Friday even for a team trailing 1-0 to start the series. Two players bristled about otherwise pretty innocuous questions, and there seemed to be a sense of rigidity within the room.

Tortorella, though, actually provided some moments of levity in a news briefing Friday that covered a wide range of topics.

Among them was Carl Hagelin’s conspicuous absence on the power play.

The skilled and speedy winger, who flanks center Derek Stepan and captain Ryan Callahan on the team’s top line, has excelled at even strength since joining the team last year. But he is seldom used on the man advantage.


"Because he stinks on the power play," Tortorella said.

Tortorella admitted he was baffled about this.

"I think he’s too quick," he said. "He’s a jitterbug, and he screws it up."

Tortorella did say he "loves the kid" and that, considering how abysmal the power play has been, Hagelin may get a look after all.

The Rangers were 0-for-3 on the man-advantage Thursday; they are 2-for-31 in eight games during the playoffs.

"Our power play stinks," Tortorella said. "Yeah, it’s true. So, that’s why he may get an opportunity. I’m not sure whether he will or not."

To wrap up the day, Tortorella ended his news conference with some critical thoughts on veteran players being hurt by not playing in the lockout.

"Some guy that didn’t go and play, it has affected," he said. "I think older players should’ve played. I think older players, even if it’s not a lockout, need to do even more as far as conditioning, as far as being on the ice."

It’s hard not to interpret such comments as an indictment against alternate captain Brad Richards. The veteran center is known for a steadfast commitment to conditioning, but he did not play during the lockout. He has struggled at various points throughout the 2013 season, and most recently, he was demoted to the team’s fourth line.

Tortorella referenced but did not name two players he coached as an assistant in Buffalo in 1994-95 that might have jeopardized their careers in abstaining from playing during the 1994 lockout.

"Some guys feel because they’re veteran and they’re up in age that they need to rest. I’ve seen guys’ careers end quickly because they’re not doing enough," he said. "They need to be on the ice more. That’s the way I feel about it. People may not agree with it, but I really believe that."

QUESTION: What is Tortorella talking about?

Please share your guesses in the comments section below.

Torts: 'We got spanked in overtime'

May, 17, 2013
BOSTON -- John Tortorella may not be the most diplomatic, charming or verbose -- especially come playoff time -- but he has a true knack for diagnosing the team’s shortcomings and he spelled it out after the New York Rangers' 3-2 overtime loss to the Boston Bruins in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals Thursday night.

"We got spanked in overtime," he said.

He was right. For as much as the Rangers played a pretty well-rounded road game with the Bruins, they got absolutely pummeled in the overtime period.

[+] EnlargeJohn Tortorella
Patrick McDermott/Getty ImagesIt took only five words for John Tortorella to summarize the Rangers' overtime loss.
Well before Patrice Bergeron set up Brad Marchand on a rush for the game winner 15:40 into OT, the Bruins dominated the Rangers with an offensive onslaught that required goaltender Henrik Lundqvist to be nothing short of perfect.

An early power play that resulted from Derek Dorsett’s interference penalty 2:20 into play allowed the Bruins to pelt the reigning Vezina Trophy winner with five shots and a post.

A strikingly different power play than the Rangers' abysmal unit -- 0-for-3 on the game, 2-for-31 in the playoffs -- the Bruins moved the puck and created a flurry of glorious chances.

New York couldn’t recover.

"We never regrouped," Tortorella said.

Entering Thursday’s series opener with back-to-back shutouts against the Washington Capitals in Round 1, Lundqvist proved he was indeed fallible.

After the game, he was left second-guessing himself on Marchand’s winner.

"There was a 2-on-1 I guess and I thought I made a bad decision," Lundqvist said. "I mean it’s a tough play, but I could play it better."

With Bergeron carrying the puck down the right wing, Marchand managed to manhandle diminutive forward Mats Zuccarello out of the way to get in front of Bergeron’s pass and tip it in past Lundqvist for the win.

"I’ve got to see the guy in the middle. I was too focused on the puck," Lundqvist explained. "I kind of knew [Marchand] was coming in the middle, but I just was too locked in on the puck, and that’s why I made a stretch move instead of coming with my pads together.

"Sooner or later when you face a lot of chances like that, you’re going to make a mistake. It’s not a mistake I’m going to sleep less over. I thought we played a solid game, but we just came up short here, in overtime, again."

Lundqvist, who made 45 saves, shouldn’t be losing sleep. He shoulders the responsibility of the Rangers’ saving grace night in and night out, but he needs help.

Overwhelmed by a furious Bruins attack -- one that included two posts and one crossbar late in the game -- the Rangers didn’t do much to help stem Boston’s surge.

"It makes it tough on our [defense], tough on everyone when we can’t get it out of our zone," captain Ryan Callahan said.

Bruins captain Zdeno Chara was the first to find an opening against Lundqvist, who was an absolute wall in wrapping up the Rangers’ first-round series against the Capitals.

Lundqvist lost track of the puck after Bruins defenseman Dougie Hamilton’s drive in the first, but recovered to make up for the gaffe. He couldn’t do the same on Chara’s heavy blast the next period. Chara’s shot trickled through and Lundqvist inadvertently knocked in the puck himself, ending his shutout streak at 152:23.

The Rangers tied the game with less than two seconds left in the second period on Ryan McDonagh’s first career playoff marker, and tallied another quick one on Derek Stepan’s goal 14 seconds into the third.

But, the home team responded with a power-play goal minutes later to knot the score at 2. Recently recalled defenseman Torey Krug, who drew into the lineup with a banged-up Bruins defense, unleashed a shot from the left point for the tying goal in his NHL playoff debut at 2:55.

In fact, it’s worth mentioning that all three youngsters on the Bruins' back end -- Krug, Hamilton and Matt Bartkowski -- played well in filling in for injured veterans Dennis Seidenberg, Andrew Ference and Wade Redden.

"They did incredible tonight," said Marchand, who finished with a goal and an assist. "Obviously, we’re really depending on those guys to step up and play big minutes, and they all did a great job tonight. We’re very happy with them."

Bruins coach Claude Julien also praised Marchand for what he called "one of his better games so far in the playoffs."

"He skated well, made some great plays, he took pucks to the net and that’s the Brad Marchand we know,” Julien said. “It was nice to see him really bring his A-game to the table tonight."

Th Rangers needed a more stout defensive effort in their own end, but they couldn’t prevent the deluge against Lundqvist, which left the reigning Vezina Trophy winner to mull what has become a worrisome Achilles' heel.

Lundqvist is now 3-11 in overtime playoff games.

Can those overtime losses pile up and plant some doubt?

"I’ve got to be really careful to ask myself the right question there, because have I played bad in overtime? No. Can I score? No. Is it frustrating? Yes," Lundqvist said. "My record is terrible in overtime, but I’ve just got to stick with it, play my game and hopefully turn it around."
UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- What a fitting end to the Islanders' 2013 season, that they left the ice with the Nassau Coliseum crowd on its feet -- even after a heartbreaking 4-3 overtime loss to the Penguins in Game 6 -- saluting the team’s stellar effort in its first playoff appearance since 2007.

That should be the lasting image -- not Brooks Orpik’s game winner -- that each player conjures up when looking back on the team’s first-round series against the top-seeded Penguins.

[+] EnlargeNew York Islanders
AP Photo/Kathy WillensThe Islanders should be proud of all they accomplished against the No. 1 seed Penguins.
Making it to the postseason was not enough for the Islanders, who surprised some doubters and captivated the league’s attention with their plucky play, but it should be regarded as a monumental step forward for the organization.

The Islanders couldn’t match Pittsburgh’s depth or experience, but they had the grit, heart and desire in ample supply to push the Penguins in a six-game set.

For so many years, the Islanders have suffered the indignities of the down-trodden and the ridicule that comes with annual bottom-five finishes.

But that perception of the Islanders is bound to change after this.

"We’ve taken a lot of heat in the past three years since I’ve been here, a lot of criticism from the media, people looked at us as a laughingstock," said heart-and-soul grinder Matt Martin, who finished with a game-high 11 hits Saturday night. "Throughout this series, we showed we can play with anyone. We’re excited about the future. We think we have something special here."

The Penguins acknowledged that, too.

After wrapping up their fourth win of the series -- a game that required them to erase three separate one-goal Islanders leads before Orpik’s deciding goal 7:49 into overtime -- they had plenty of respect for the Islanders as they convened at center ice for the customary handshake line.

[+] EnlargeJohn Tavares, Sidney Crosby
Brad Penner/USA TODAY SportsJohn Tavares said this experience will just serve to motivate the Islanders next season.
"Just walking through the line, they said so many good things, just that you guys have a really good team here. You know, I don’t think this team has heard that in a long time," said rugged forward Colin McDonald, who gave the Isles a 2-1 lead with 37 seconds remaining in the first period. "That’s one of the few positives you can talk about right now. I think as an organization, as players, maybe we gained some respect back, and I’m really glad the fans supported us the way they do. I hope this is just the start, a stepping stone looking ahead to next year."

The Islanders received the requisite secondary scoring Saturday from the likes of McDonald and Michael Grabner to build off John Tavares’ wrist shot from the slot that gave the Isles a 1-0 lead 5:36 into play.

But the Pens showed resilience in a tough road test during which they were outshot 38-21 and superstar Sidney Crosby was held to one point. Each time the Isles gained momentum, the Penguins found a way to even the score. Less than six minutes from the Islanders forcing a winner-takes-all Game 7 in Pittsburgh, Pens defenseman Paul Martin unleashed a one-timer that deflected off Frans Nielsen to knot the score at 3 and send the game into overtime.

"I think we outshot them again today and created a lot of opportunities, but times that we could’ve gone up and taken a bigger lead, we just couldn’t do it," said Tavares, who on Friday was named one of three Hart Memorial Trophy finalists for the league’s annual MVP. "They stayed with it, and maybe that’s why they’re moving on."

"It was every bit of a battle in those six games," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said after his team punched its ticket to a second-round matchup against the seventh-seeded Ottawa Senators.

Special teams hurt the Islanders and veteran goaltender Evgeni Nabokov failed to steal a game, but the Penguins were the team to come up with the big plays when it counted.

For that reason, the Islanders will pack up for the offseason, with the hunger to win even more intense now that they know what it takes and how it’s done.

"It’s what I’ll be thinking about all summer," said Tavares, who finished the series with three goals and five points. "It’s what pushes you every day, and you finally get to experience it. We got here and we weren’t satisfied with getting here. I thought we competed real well, we played with them most of the series and dictated the play a lot of the series, too. They just took advantage of most of their opportunities."

The Penguins remained composed throughout the series, keeping doubt at bay even when the Islanders' Cinderella story seemed to be gaining traction. Bylsma made a bold but necessary goaltending change in replacing starter Marc-Andre Fleury with veteran backup Tomas Vokoun after a bafflingly bad performance in Game 4. That move paid dividends as the latter turned away 66 of 69 shots faced in his two starts to close out the series.

And in moving on, Pittsburgh managed to exorcise some demons from last spring’s implosion when the team was upset in the first round by the Philadelphia Flyers.

"I think we fought it a little bit, that history, and we fought it in different ways," Bylsma said. "But again, we had to be excited to win and not thinking about the past."

The Islanders don’t have that luxury, however. With their first taste of the playoffs also comes their first devastating sense of disappointment.

That won’t abate any time soon.

"Right now, it’s just tough, but in a couple of weeks when we look back at the season, I think we’ll realize we took a big step in the right direction," Nielsen said. "But, we’re definitely not satisfied with that. It’s still a long way to go. It’s not a success until we’ve got that Cup, but I think it’s a step in the right direction."

Nash battling "slump"

May, 11, 2013
WASHINGTON -- It’s hard to imagine Rangers forward Rick Nash is not frustrated, what with being held off the score sheet for the fourth game this series.

Nash has only one point in the team’s best-of-seven set against the Capitals and did not manage a shot on goal until the overtime period of the Rangers' 2-1 loss in Game 5.

Nash admitted he was a "streaky" player and said he’s got to "work out of this slump."

"I don’t know if it’s frustration, but it’s not a good thing when you can’t help your team win and do what you want to do out there," he said.

The 28-year-old winger, acquired by the Rangers in a blockbuster trade this past summer, is playing in only the second playoff series of his career. The hopes are high for Nash, who was regarded as the type of player who could elevate the Rangers to consideration as a Stanley Cup contender.

So far, that expectation has not been met.

Nash did get two shots on goal against Capitals netminder Braden Holtby in overtime, but to no avail.

"I thought, the third period, overtime, I had the chances to make something happen," he said. "It’s just not working right now."

Part of that is the Capitals’ game plan to contain Nash. That has worked well for Washington thus far, as he has been limited to just one assist through the first five games.

"They’re closing the space. They’re not allowing much room. When that happens, you gotta find the other guys and use your teammates," Nash said. "That’s what I was trying to do tonight."

Until he’s able to pick up his game offensively, he’ll try to contribute in other ways.

"Any time you can’t help the team win, it’s not the best thing," Nash said. "There is a little frustration, but when you’re not scoring, you’ve got to find other ways to help, whether it’s a big hit, a good defensive play, setting someone up."

• • •

Washington prospect Tom Wilson got thrown into the fire Friday night, making his NHL debut during Game 5 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals.

The 19-year-old winger, a 2012 first-round draft pick (16th overall), was summoned from the minors in the wake of an injury to Martin Erat.

Wilson, who played 6:24 over eight shifts on the Capitals' fourth line with Matt Hendricks and Jay Beagle, said his first NHL game lived up to expectations.

"It was everything I imagined. It was just unbelievable," he said. "The fans, you could hear them, everyone could hear them. It was just the best support we could have, and to have a finish like that, it was just a dream come true and everything I imagined."

Wilson is just a few weeks removed from playing in the Ontario Hockey League playoffs and less than a week removed from playing in his first AHL game with the team’s minor league affiliate, the Hershey Bears.

"I was pretty nervous," he said of his pregame jitters. "I got back to the hotel room, had some down time and it kind of set in, but I was able to nap pretty well, so it was good."
WASHINGTON -- Fielding questions from reporters after the game, Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist slunk back in his stall and answered them with such a quiet strain that he was almost inaudible.

He remained there once the scrum disappeared and lowered his head in his hands, looking like someone that was trying to reserve every last ounce of composure.

The reigning Vezina Trophy winner had every right to be frustrated, holding the Rangers in the game until Mike Ribeiro’s overtime winner gave the Caps a 2-1 win at Verizon Center on Friday.

Washington now leads the series 3-2 with a chance to send the Rangers packing on Sunday in Game 6 in New York.

[+] EnlargeRick Nash
Greg Fiume/Getty ImagesThe Rangers fell to the Capitals in Game 5 and are now down 3-2 in the series.
The Rangers have been in a similar position before -- trailing the Senators 3-2 in last year’s first-round series heading into Game 6 in Ottawa -- and they forced a Game 7.

They’ll have to do it again Sunday at Madison Square Garden.

"We’ll respond fine," captain Ryan Callahan said. "We’ve got a lot of character in here. Last year, we were in the same situation but going on the road. Character or responding isn’t going to be an issue."

Lundqvist was under siege for much of the third period, when the Rangers were outshot 13-4, and faced a number of quality chances in overtime. He made a stunning kick save to rob Mathieu Perreault early in the period; he stopped Alex Ovechkin’s one-timer after that.

But, in a series that has come down to inches, it was Ribeiro’s rebound goal at 9:24 that shoved the Rangers' backs against the wall.

It was Ribeiro's first goal of the series. The second-line center, one of Washington's top contributors during the regular season, was held to a mere assist in the first four games.

"It's obviously a very big goal for him," Capitals coach Adam Oates said. "He's played well in this series and just hasn't gotten one to go his way. Obviously, a huge goal."

Lundqvist turned away each and every one of Alex Ovechkin's team-high nine shots -- Ovechkin has now been held off the score sheet in three straight games -- but couldn't recover in time to seal the post against Ribeiro's only one of the night.

"Frustrating and disappointing, but it’s not over," said Lundqvist, who finished the night with 33 saves. "We have to go home and regroup. It’s going to be a tough couple hours and then you just forget about it."

The result has to be all the more disappointing for the Rangers with the way the team came out in the first period, neutralizing the crowd at Verizon Center less than a minute into the game when Brian Boyle tallied his second of the playoffs for a 1-0 lead at the 53-second mark.

In setting up Boyle in front, center Derick Brassard registered his fifth primary assist and sixth point in the last three games.

But, just as Boyle’s first-period marker gave the Rangers the lead, his ill-advised penalty in the second effectively tied the game.

Shoved by Ribeiro while down on the ice, Boyle got caught retaliating when he took a hearty whack at Ribeiro’s legs and was sent to the box for slashing.
Washington’s Joel Ward cashed in on the resulting power play, knotting the score at 1 at 7:44 of the second period.

"Dumb penalty," Ranger coach John Tortorella said. "And you don't kill those off. It just happens that way in our game. That's a guy that's playing really well for us, but it's a dumb penalty."

The Rangers struggled to get the puck out of their defensive zone in the third, as the Capitals sustained pressure and peppered Lundqvist while the Rangers' forecheck went missing.

"We didn’t have a forecheck, which means our [defense] faced a lot tonight," said alternate captain Brad Richards. "[The Capitals] were coming hard and we didn’t do enough to keep the puck in their end and take the pressure off.”

The Rangers, already without defenseman Marc Staal (eye), lost rugged winger Ryane Clowe -- again.

The 30-year-old forward, who returned in Game 4 after missing four games with what is believed to be a concussion, was forced from the game during the first period after taking a hard hit from Washington’s Jason Chimera. In absorbing the blow, Clowe’s head rattled against the boards. Chimera went off for boarding, while Clowe took one more shift before leaving the game.

He did not return.

So, the Rangers will attempt to hold off the Caps at home, with Washington looking to return the favor on their ouster last spring. The Rangers beat the Capitals in seven games to advance to the Eastern Conference finals in 2012.

"Obviously, it’s going to be their barn, their building, their people. It’s going to be electric," Oates said. "We’ve got to handle the first 10 minutes of the game."

Tortorella wouldn’t even consent to using the E-word in discussing Game 6.

"I don’t consider it an elimination game," he said. "We’re trying to win one game. I’m not going to even use that word."

Pens shutouts deserve a shoutout

May, 9, 2013

This is the first time in 34 years that 2 different goalies had a shutout in a single series for the same team:

Shutout by 2 Different Goalies in Same Series
Stanley Cup Playoff History
First Goalie 2nd Goalie
2013 Penguins Marc-Andre Fleury Tomas Vokoun
1979 Islanders Chico Resch Billy Smith
1976 Bruins Gerry Cheevers Gilles Gilbert
1975 Flyers Bernie Parent Wayne Stephenson
1972 Bruins Gerry Cheevers Eddie Johnston
1965 Canadiens Charlie Hodge Gump Worsley

Rangers now have the momentum

May, 9, 2013
All of a sudden, it seems this series has taken a turn.

It didn’t happen right away for the Rangers, who were outplayed in the first two games of their first-round matchup against the Capitals. But, since falling behind 2-0 after a disheartening trip to D.C., the Rangers have steadily regained traction in this best-of-seven set.

With a 4-3 win over the Caps at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday, the Rangers evened the series, 2-2, and tilted momentum in their favor heading into Game 5.

[+] EnlargeRyane Clowe
AP Photo/Kathy WillensThe Rangers beat the Caps to tie the series at two games apiece.
“So far, we’re just taking care of business at home. That’s what we need to do.” said Henrik Lundqvist, who finished with 27 saves. “Coming back home, being down two games, we had a lot of pressure, but we stepped up there. So far we just tied the series. We still need to do whatever we can to get the next one.”

Carl Hagelin led the team with a goal and two assists, Derick Brassard chipped in with another masterful multi-point performance, and the Rangers held Alex Ovechkin off the score sheet for the second straight game.

It was the best complete effort this series for the Rangers, who asserted themselves on the forecheck, defended well in their own zone, and didn’t surrender the special-teams battle.

“They were working harder. They were coming harder,” Caps defenseman Karl Alzner said. “They made some adjustments so we’ll have to adjust now.”

With the Capitals trailing the Rangers by two goals in the third period, Alzner’s shot that deflected off Mathieu Perreault at 7:31 pulled the Capitals within one, 4-3, but the Rangers refused to let another two-goal lead dissolve.

After building a 2-0 advantage earlier in the game on goals from Hagelin and Brad Richards, the Rangers let the Capitals climb right back into it during the middle frame. In fact, it was Washington that sapped the life out of Madison Square Garden with Troy Brouwer’s backhander that beat Lundqvist and knotted the score at 2 with 17.1 seconds to play.

Caps veteran Jason Chimera essentially nullified that surge, however, with an interference penalty as the second period expired, giving the Rangers a power play to start the third.

Brassard made a deft backhanded dish to find defenseman Dan Girardi all alone at the left point for a slap shot that beat Braden Holtby 59 seconds in and re-ignited a restless home crowd.

Brassard made a brilliant cross-ice feed to set up Hagelin’s goal earlier in the game.

“It’s incredible,” defenseman Ryan McDonagh said of Brassard’s game. “His playmaking ability is so crucial.”

After an underwhelming start to the series, Brassard has been impressive in the past two games, during which he has registered one goal and five points.

“The first two games, I was a little bit nervous, but when I’m in my game, I make plays,” said Brassard, who was awarded the team’s MVP Broadway Hat. “I just wanna take that game [into] Washington.”

The No. 6 seed Rangers now face a best-of-three against the No. 3 seed Capitals, who have home-ice advantage with both Games 5 and 7 (if necessary) at the Verizon Center.

After giving up the first pair of games in hostile territory, the Rangers know they are in line for a tough test.

“I think our resiliency has really shown in these last two games and we’re going to need that when we go to Washington, because they’ll surge there,” coach John Tortorella said. “We’ve just got to find a way to keep our head above water and try to win a game.”

Wednesday’s win wasn’t without its bumps, but the Rangers managed the swings and surges better than they have all series. To best the offensively loaded Capitals, especially on the road, the Rangers need to stick to that blueprint.

“We felt our first two games weren’t consistent enough,” McDonagh said. “If there’s something we can take out of our success these past two games, it’s more of the same.”

The Capitals will be ready.

“It’s a three-game series now,” said Holtby, who finished the night with 30 saves. “We still have home-ice advantage, Like I said before, we knew it was going to be a tough series. We learned last year that this team that we are playing doesn’t give up and we don’t either. Coming in, we didn’t care how many games it took to win as long as we won four out of seven.”

Isles lose Andrew MacDonald

May, 8, 2013
The Islanders won 6-4 against the Penguins Tuesday night, but lost key defenseman Andrew MacDonald in tying the series 2-2.

MacDonald was forced from the game during the second period after being hit by a shot from Penguins defenseman Douglas Murray on the arm. He did not return to the ice, forcing the Isles to roll five defenseman the rest of the game.

It appears as though the Isles may be without him for the rest of the post-season as well. According to Newsday's Arthur Staple, MacDonald suffered a broken hand on the play and is unlikely to return during the playoffs.

The 25-year-old MacDonald, who plays with Travis Hamonic on the team's top defensive pairing, leads the Islanders with 23:31 minutes per game.

"He's an integral part of our team, no question," coach Jack Capuano said after the game.

Capuano said he believes that others will be able to step up in his absence. Assuming MacDonald misses Game 5, the Islanders will likely use veteran Radek Martinek, a scratch the first four games of the series.

Isles gaining confidence

May, 7, 2013
UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- The Islanders are not simply happy to be here.

Proving that they can be more than just competitive with the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Islanders edged the top seed in the East 6-4 in a wild romp at Nassau Coliseum Tuesday night to even the series 2-2.

Scoring six goals against a supremely shaky Marc-Andre Fleury, the Isles might also have planted some serious doubt within the Penguins' room about their starting goaltender.

[+] EnlargeJosh Bailey
Anthony Gruppuso/USA TODAY SportsThe Islanders evened up the series at two games apiece on Tuesday.
Fleury has now given up 14 goals in four games this series, leading many to wonder whether veteran backup Tomas Vokoun will get the start in goal for Game 5 on Thursday in Pittsburgh.

Penguins coach Dan Bylsma declined to say who would start, but he didn’t rule out Vokoun as a possibility.

“We’re not going to talk about our starting goaltender for Game 5 right now,” Bylsma said.

It wasn’t just Fleury who gave up questionable goals -- Isles netminder Evgeni Nabokov has a few he’d probably like back as well -- in what turned out to be a wildly entertaining game between two teams trading scoring chances at a frenetic pace.

After seeing leads quickly evaporate in the first two periods, the Islanders rattled off three goals in the final frame. Captain Mark Streit, who finished with three points, tied the game at 3 with his second goal of the game early in the third, and superstar center John Tavares snapped a 4-4 draw to score what would hold up as the game-winner midway through the period.

Tavares stick handled his way to the doorstep and chased his own rebound to beat Fleury’s outstretched pad for a 5-4 lead at 10:11. Fourth-line sparkplug Casey Cizikas (1G, 2A, +4 rating) added an insurance goal with less than two minutes remaining -- the final display of Fleury’s frustrating night.

Before that bizarre play, in which he was out of position and slow to react to Cizikas cutting to the net, Fleury gave up a real softie to Kyle Okposo in the second period.

Okposo threw the puck at the net from behind the goal line and banked it in off Fleury’s pads at 18:36.

The handful of blunders was eerily reminiscent of last year’s meltdown in the first round of the playoffs, when Fleury surrendered a dizzying 26 goals over six games to the Philadelphia Flyers.

“We know how he played last year against Philly, but we just want to go get traffic in front of him, get shots, shoot the puck,” Okposo said. “We didn’t shoot the puck enough in the second. We came out in the third, peppered him and got in his kitchen a little bit.”

Rugged forward Matt Martin said the team let Fleury off too easy in Game 1 when he recorded a 5-0 shutout. Since then, they’ve amped up the pressure.

“Game 1, we didn’t test him enough. He had a shutout. Luckily, Game 2 we were able to get some on him and since then, we’ve been able to capitalize on our opportunities,” Martin said. "I think if you take away any goalie’s confidence, it’s hard to make saves.”

By contrast, the Islanders confidence seems to be soaring after Game 4’s victory, one that ensures they’ll get another game at home in front of a raucous Nassau Coliseum crowd.

"Game 3 was heartbreaking and we found a way to put it behind us, so the nice thing is that we get another game at home here," Martin said. "The crowd’s been fantastic for us."

Even without top-pair defenseman Andrew MacDonald, who was forced from the game with an upper-body injury in the second period, the Islanders seem encouraged by their chances from here on out.

They’ll take momentum into Game 5 and the knowledge that these Penguins are a beatable team.

Although an inexperienced squad, the Islanders have matured, both from earlier this season and maybe even earlier this series, into one capable of managing the momentum swings and surges within a game.

“We put so much effort into getting here, there was no doubt we wanted to make the most of this opportunity," Tavares said. "We weren’t just satisfied being here. We believe in this room, obviously. ... There are a lot of guys stepping up for us here and that’s what we need.”
What it means: This first-round series between the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins has been more than just competitive. It's been wildly entertaining.

Following a heartbreaking overtime loss on Sunday in Game 3, the eighth-seeded Isles edged the top-seeded Penguins 6-4 on Tuesday with three goals in a frenzied third period to even the series 2-2.

Goaltending took a back seat Tuesday night, with both Marc-Andre Fleury and Evgeni Nabokov giving up a few questionable goals throughout the course of a frenzied game 4, but the crowd at Nassau Coliseum didn't seem to mind. The two teams traded goals until Islanders star John Tavares delivered the game-winner in the third.

Snapping a 4-4 draw, Tavares made a terrific move to stick handle his way to the net and chase his own rebound to beat Fleury. The dramatic goal caused a boisterous crowd at Nassau Coliseum to erupt into cheers of "M-V-P!" as the Penguins scrambled to collect themselves. Fleury didn't help matters, though, as his blunder late in the game allowed Casey Cizikas to add an insurance goal with 1:16 to play.

Trading chances: For the second time in the game, the Islanders allowed a lead to quickly evaporate. After captain Mark Streit's first goal of the night gave the Isles a 2-1 edge in the second period, the Penguins answered 58 seconds later when Evgeni Malkin converted a 2-on-1 rush. The Penguins later took a 3-2 lead on Brandon Sutter’s shot from the left circle that beat a screened Evgeni Nabokov, but this time it was the Islanders who responded.

Soft goal: Scrutinized for his meltdown in the Penguins’ first-round series against the Flyers last spring, Fleury has been on the hot seat this series. He didn’t help his case by giving up a softie for the game-tying goal with 1:24 remaining in the second. Kyle Okposo threw the puck on net from behind the goal line, banking it in off Fleury’s pads to knot the score at three heading into the second intermission.

Close call: Once again, Crosby was the recipient of a hazardous deflected puck, though Tuesday night’s close call appeared to be just that. In his third game back from a fractured jaw, Crosby was stung in the throat by a piece of Brian Strait’s shot that glanced off the stick of Chris Kunitz. In a poor display, Islanders fans cheered as Crosby doubled over and skated to the opposite end of the ice. He eventually went to the bench, where he was briefly treated by the team’s trainer, and returned to the ice.

Tied after one: Strait, whose Game 3 penalty on Crosby led to the game-winning power-play goal, gave the Isles a 1-0 lead late in the first period on a seeing-eye shot that beat Fleury at 14:05, but the Isles gave one right back less than a minute later. James Neal, who returned after suffering an injury in Game 1 of the series, ripped a sharp-angle shot past Nabokov 45 seconds later to tie the game, 1-1.

Man down: Islanders defenseman Andrew MacDonald was forced from the game in the second period after taking Douglas Murray’s shot to the arm. Should the injury sideline MacDonald for Game 5, that would be a significant loss for the Islanders blue line. The 26-year-old plays on the team’s top pairing with youngster Travis Hamonic.

Up Next: Islanders at Penguins, Thursday at 7.

Delay of game confusion, Dorsett debut

May, 4, 2013
With the game tied 0-0 and time winding down, the New York Rangers thought they’d have one more power-play opportunity in regulation when the puck deflected off Washington Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner’s stick and sailed over the glass with less than 46 seconds left in the third period.

Despite a lengthy stoppage in play and what looked like some huddling between the officials, a delay of game penalty wasn’t called on Alzner, leaving the Rangers puzzled.

Ultimately, it was determined that the penalty was not called because it was deflected. According to the rulebook, specifically rule 63.2, a player must shoot or bat the puck over the ice to be subject to a minor penalty. The play was not reviewable by the league’s Situation Room.

"The puck was there and it wasn’t shot out," Alzner said after the Capitals' 1-0 overtime win. "It was tipped out and that was all they said."

Coincidentally, Alzner said he was thinking about what the ruling on that type of play would be on Friday night.

"It’s actually weird. I was thinking about that last night," he said. "I was thinking, if that play ever happened, what would the call be? And I guess it’s discretionary, whatever they decide. So I was happy they decided that."

Asked his thoughts about the rule, coach John Tortorella didn’t care to take issue with it.

"It’s a rule," he said.

• • •

Both Derek Dorsett and Brian Boyle returned to the lineup for the Rangers and Tortorella said he was pleased with their play.

"They played well," he said. "We changed the lines to try to create some more offense and also due to some matchups."

Dorsett, who flanked former Columbus Blue Jackets teammate Derick Brassard for most of the game, set a physical tone with his play in his Rangers debut. It was the first game back for the gritty 26-year-old since suffering a broken collarbone back in March while still playing for Columbus, and he tried to test it early with contact against Caps defenseman Steven Oleksy during his first shift.

Dorsett finished with seven hits, two shots and two penalties in his first game as a Blueshirt, a match he had been anticipating ever since being traded to New York at the deadline in April.

"There were a lot of emotions going into the game. I was up early in the morning like a little kid at Christmas," Dorsett said.

Boyle started the game between Darroll Powe and Arron Asham but was later awarded some shifts between Taylor Pyatt and Dorsett.

The hulking centerman, who suffered a lower-body injury April 16 in Philadelphia, finished with one shot and six hits in 11:29 over 18 shifts.

Rangers lose despite great goaltending

May, 4, 2013
WASHINGTON -- Judging from the emotions in the Rangers’ dressing room after Saturday’s gut-wrenching 1-0 overtime loss to the Capitals, there is genuine anguish over the way this series is headed and why.

Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist was stewing in frustration after a 37-save performance that was spoiled by Mike Green’s game-winning power-play goal. Defenseman Ryan McDonagh had to fight back tears as he explained his delay of game penalty that led to the Caps’ man advantage.

And after two failed power plays of their own late in the game, neither of which yielded a single shot, the Rangers stare down a 2-0 hole as the series shifts back to New York.

"Really, really disappointed right now that we couldn’t come up with a win," Lundqvist said. "We gave ourselves a chance here, but we came up short."

The Rangers, who did not register a shot in the final 17:43 of play, have scored only one goal over the past two games, and it wasn't even a clean shot. Carl Hagelin's wraparound attempt deflected in off Caps defenseman John Erskine's skate in Game 1 on Thursday

[+] EnlargeHenrik Lundqvist
Chuck Myers/Getty ImagesHenrik Lundqvist had 37 saves, but the Rangers dropped Game 2.
The team's ailing power play is also 0-for-7 through the first two games of the series, a glaring Achilles' heel for a battle that is sure to come down to special teams.

By contrast, the Capitals entered the postseason with the top-ranked power play in the league; they have tallied a man-up marker in each of their two wins.

"We’re just too stagnant," Rangers coach John Tortorella said. "We’re almost paralyzed."

An intense, physical game was marked by the outstanding goaltending on both ends, from Lundqvist and from Caps netminder Braden Holtby, who made 24 saves in recording the shutout.

Lundqvist handled the bulk of the workload, turning away several Grade A scoring chances throughout the game. He made a terrific stop on Mathieu Perreault in front in the second period and stoned Caps veteran Jason Chimera from the doorstep with his right pad early in the third. Holtby didn’t feel as much pressure, but he was superb nonetheless, denying a couple of key chances late in the game, including Ryan Callahan’s short-sided attempt in the final frame.

"He [Lundqvist] was great. He played unbelievable," said Rick Nash, who hit the left post and drew a penalty late in the third. "We have to get some goals for him."

The penalty drawn by Nash -- a slashing call against Troy Brouwer with 3:44 left in regulation -- gave the Rangers their best chance of the game to take the lead. But the Capitals' stingy penalty kill held the Rangers without a shot -- an inspired effort that had the crowd at Verizon Center fired up.

"They’re a shot-blocking team that gets in the lanes well. They have a lot of courage," defenseman Dan Girardi said." I think it’s a matter of us … beating their pressure and creating a lane for us and try to get shots through when we can."

The Rangers appeared to be in line for another power play with less than a minute left in the game when a puck deflected off Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner up and over the glass in Washington’s defensive zone with less than 46 seconds remaining.

It wasn’t called, as Alzner didn’t shoot or bat the puck over the glass, but the point seemed moot when the Rangers failed to cash in on a delay of game penalty when Caps defenseman Steve Oleksy sailed one over the glass 1:51 into the overtime period.

McDonagh was whistled for one, too (albeit after a shift that lasted 3:04, including a timeout) but the Capitals didn’t let their opportunity to cash in slip past.

Green, who led all defensemen in the regular season with 12 goals, beat Lundqvist glove-side eight minutes into overtime, sending the Rangers off the ice in disappointment.

"I just got a little too much under it," McDonagh said of the costly penalty.

The loss will burn for the Rangers, considering such a pristine performance by Lundqvist was wasted in a completely winnable game. The two-game deficit they now face is a daunting one even though they get Games 3 and 4 at home at Madison Square Garden.

But the Rangers insist they are ready for the challenge.

"It’s a challenge," Nash said. "We go home. The fans were into it [here]. I have no doubt that our fans will be waiting for us back home to make it a hard environment to play in. They’re two huge games, but we’ll worry about the first one."

McDonagh, whose bleary eyes were a reminder of just how bad this one stung, is already looking ahead to that.

"I’m already focusing on Game 3," McDonagh said. "I’m ready for it."