New York Hockey: Stanley Cup playoffs 2013

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- The New York Rangers face a daunting 3-0 series hole with the knowledge that never in franchise history has the team overcome such a deficit.

Heading into Game 4 against the Boston Bruins on Thursday, the Rangers are trying to avoid the statistics and the past, instead narrowing their focus on the most immediate need.

[+] EnlargeRyan McDonagh and David Krejci
Scott Levy/Getty ImagesRyan McDonagh says the Rangers need to focus on Game 4, not winning four in a row.
"Obviously, it is a tall task, but you can't look at the big picture," defenseman Ryan McDonagh said Wednesday. "You take it day by day here, trying to get yourself better, as close to 100 percent as you can going into the game, and you've gotta use the home crowd again tomorrow and try to thrive off that."

The Rangers had won nine straight at Madison Square Garden before letting a third-period lead against Boston disappear in Tuesday's 2-1 loss.

With the Bruins eager to erase the past -- a blown 3-0 series lead to Philadelphia in the 2010 playoffs plus a shaky first-round series this year against Toronto in which they allowed the Leafs to force a Game 7 -- they'll be looking to channel the confidence gained from their past four wins to complete the sweep.

The Rangers have not been swept since 2006, when the New Jersey Devils beat them in four consecutive games.

Unfortunately for the Rangers, they will likely try to avoid elimination without the help of top-four defenseman Anton Stralman, who was forced from Game 3 with a suspected shoulder injury after absorbing a thunderous hit from Boston's Milan Lucic in the second period.

Rangers coach John Tortorella, both after the game Tuesday and the team's practice Wednesday, seemed to be prepared for Stralman's absence from the lineup.

"Losing Stralsy is a big blow," Tortorella said Wednesday. "To a defense that is lacking a little depth right now, it hurts us. But, again, it just comes down to, listen, we're down 0-3, there's no sense in feeling pressure."

Stralman has quietly been a strong and steady presence on the team's back end, which is already ailing without cornerstone defenseman Marc Staal. Stralman has provided the Rangers mobility and toughness and will be missed against a deep, balanced Bruins squad.

"He's been huge in this series," McDonagh said. "He's such a mobile skater, and that's huge as a defenseman. He's able to get a step on a guy, create some space and find a passing lane to get it up to our forwards. He's been exceptional in the playoffs, and we really hope he's back."

Assuming Stralman does not play, it will be either Matt Gilroy or veteran Roman Hamrlik who joins the lineup.

Though Tortorella will lean heavily on his top pairing of McDonagh and Dan Girardi, Stralman's injury also means that either Steve Eminger or John Moore will be thrust into a top-four role, playing alongside young defenseman Michael Del Zotto.

"Players that get to play tomorrow and play more minutes than maybe they're used to? Grab ahold of it and let it happen," Tortorella advised. "I mean, crap, you lose and you're done."

Ryane Clowe back on ice

May, 22, 2013
GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Injured forward Ryane Clowe returned to the ice for the first time since suffering an apparent head injury in Game 5 of the Rangers' first-round series against Washington.

Clowe was among the players skating during the Rangers' optional practice Wednesday, the morning after a Game 3 loss to Boston.

Clowe, acquired from the San Jose Sharks at the trade deadline, has appeared in only one postseason game for the Rangers. He missed five games after sustaining what is believed to have been a concussion against the Carolina Hurricanes during the last week of the regular season.

Clowe, one of the most coveted trade targets at the deadline, waived his no-trade clause to come to the Rangers because he felt "this team is built for this time of year," he said during the Washington series. Set to become a unrestricted free agent this summer, Clowe appeared to be the type of player the Rangers were interested in re-signing. That seems less likely now, with his string of injuries that have limited his time on the ice.

Carl Hagelin, who took a puck to the face in Game 3 on Tuesday, also practiced with the team as did Darroll Powe (undisclosed) and Marc Staal (eye).

Chris Kreider, who took a stick to the eye in Game 3, and defenseman Anton Stralman, who was also injured in the game after taking a monster hit from Milan Lucic, did not practice.

Notes: Stralman sidelined

May, 22, 2013
The New York Rangers’ blue line, already without Marc Staal, lost another top-four defenseman Tuesday night when Anton Stralman was forced from the game in the second period.

[+] EnlargeAnton Stralman
Bruce Bennett/Getty ImagesAn injury to Anton Stralman further weakens a Rangers' blue line that was already decimated.
Stralman, who plays on the team’s second defensive pairing with Michael Del Zotto, was forced from the game after a hard hit from Boston’s Milan Lucic late in the second period.

Stralman did not play in the third period, which forced Rangers coach John Tortorella to lean heavily on his top pair of Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi.

“He’s played so well,” Tortorella said of Stralman after the team’s 2-1 loss. “That’s a big blow to us, as far as our matches and the depth within our [defense].”

Assuming Stralman is unavailable for Game 4, either veteran Roman Hamrlik or Matt Gilroy will draw into the lineup. Neither player has made an appearance yet in the 2013 playoffs.

Limited role: Struggling center Brad Richards, recently relegated to the fourth line with his poor play, saw a paltry 8:10 of ice time, only 5:58 of which was at even strength.

Richards, who might be a prime candidate for a buyout this summer, was limited to a mere three shifts in the second period and two in the third.

The 32-year-old veteran, who inked a nine-year, $60 million deal in July of 2011, has been held to one point this postseason.

World of hurt: Stralman wasn’t the only one to get banged up during Game 3.

Carl Hagelin left the game after taking a puck to the face in the third, though he returned later in the period. Chris Kreider also required medical attention when he went down to the ice, writhing in pain, after getting a stick to the eye. Kreider also remained in the game.

Power outage: The Rangers' ineptitude on the power play continued with another futile effort Tuesday night.

After failing on both man-up opportunities in Game 3, the Rangers are now 2-for-38 -- a dreadful 5.3 percent -- in the playoffs and 0-for-10 this series.

By contrast, the Bruins have had only one power play over the past two games.

Boyle: 'We're not done by any means'

May, 22, 2013
New York Rangers forward Brian Boyle sat in his stall, hunched over and frothing in frustration, but dead-set in his declaration following a pivotal 2-1 loss to the Boston Bruins in Game 3.

"We’ve got more hockey to play," said Boyle, almost breathless with exasperation. "We’re not done by any means."

It was the sort of statement that comes only in the presence of a do-or-die situation, and the Rangers face that now as they trail the Bruins 3-0 in their second-round series.

[+] EnlargeBrian Boyle
Bruce Bennett/Getty ImagesBrian Boyle was very frustrated with his poor play Tuesday in Game 3.
After dropping the first pair of games in Boston, the Rangers returned home to Madison Square Garden, where they had recorded nine straight wins, only to see a third-period lead evaporate late in the third with Daniel Paille’s game-winner with 3:31 remaining in regulation.

It was a waste of goaltender Henrik Lundqvist’s pristine performance and a crippling reminder of how dangerous Boston can be if given extended zone time.

Now, all that separates the Bruins from completing the sweep and punching their ticket to the Eastern Conference finals is Game 4 on Thursday.

"It feels like we lost a big game and that sucks," said Boyle, who was livid with his own performance. "There were a lot of areas I could’ve contributed more and that’s infuriating. Biggest game of the year and it just wasn’t enough."

Boyle’s line of Taylor Pyatt and Derek Dorsett was effective in a checking role when used to neutralize Boston’s trio of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and Jaromir Jagr, but the hulking center was particularly critical of his play from the dots. He finished 4-for-21 from the faceoff circle, a feeble 19 percent.

"We were in our own zone for way too long because I couldn’t win a friggin’ draw," Boyle said.

After the Rangers built a 1-0 lead in the second period on Taylor Pyatt’s deflection goal, the Bruins won the puck battles and controlled the territorial game, with extended time in the Rangers’ end.

Lundqvist was stellar throughout the game -- stopping two backhanded breakaways in the first period, snagging a blistering slapshot in the second -- but faced far too much pressure.

After escaping the second period unscathed, the Rangers surrendered the tying goal to Boston’s Johnny Boychuk -- his fourth marker of the postseason.

"We knew they were going to push," captain Ryan Callahan said. "I thought we had a pretty good third period, but we gave up a goal and we don’t get one. It’s tough."

The thought of relinquishing a two-game series lead to Toronto in Round 1 provided the Bruins with the motivation to keep grinding, and they were rewarded late in the third with Paille’s winner.

The fourth-liner swooped in from behind the net to sweep in a puck that had deflected off Lundqvist’s mask and off the crossbar.


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Of course, they’ve seen a commanding 3-0 series lead disappear as well, when the Flyers completed a stunning comeback against them in 2010. Philadelphia is one of only three teams in NHL history to surmount a 3-0 series deficit during the playoffs.

"We had to live with that. We still have to live with that," Bruins coach Claude Julien said.

Julien said this team, which also let the Leafs force a Game 7 despite entering Game 5 with a 3-1 series advantage, is playing on a whole new level now.

"I didn’t think we were in the zone [against Toronto] like we are now," he said.

That was a focus heading into Game 3 for the Bruins, as Marchand detailed Tuesday morning in the hours before the puck drop.

"We try to learn from every situation," Marchand said. "We realize we let [Toronto] back in it. We didn’t have that killer instinct. We want to make sure to try and step up and do the job."

Meanwhile, the Rangers are on the brink of elimination with a depleted defense, inept power play and a whole slew of statistics stacked against them.

The Rangers are 0-10 all-time in playoff series when trailing 3-0, and, according to Elias Sports Bureau, no team has ever overcome 2-0 deficits in two consecutive best-of-seven-series in the same playoff year.

There is also the matter of pride at stake, with the Rangers desperate to avoid the "S" word.

Rangers coach John Tortorella admitted his team was in a "tough situation" but said he had confidence in how they’d response.

"I have full faith in our athletes," he said.

The Rangers are a proud bunch, and determined. According to Boyle, this series is not over, no matter how well the Bruins are playing.

"They’re a good team. They’ve got some depth," Boyle said. "We’re a good team, too. We’ll show it Thursday."

Lundqvist amazing but Rangers lose again

May, 21, 2013
Henrik Lundqvist wore the look of a stunned man, staring blankly as he sat at his locker.

The Rangers goaltender was nothing short of sensational in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinals on Tuesday night at the Garden. He stoned a pair of Boston Bruins breakaway chances in the first period and then used his glove to rob Gregory Campbell in the second and Tyler Seguin in the third.
But with 3:31 left, Lundqvist was the victim of an awful bounce that put the Rangers in a 3-0 series hole.

[+] EnlargeHenrik Lundqvist
Bruce Bennett/Getty ImagesHenrik Lundqvist made 32 saves but still could not get the win.
Campbell took a seemingly harmless wrist shot from the left-wing boards that shouldn’t have caused any problems. But the puck somehow deflected off the top of Lundqvist’s mask and popped up into the air.

At that point, Lundqvist had no idea where it was. The puck actually ended up bouncing on the goal line, but Daniel Paille swooped around the net and buried the rebound to give the Bruins a 2-1 victory and a stranglehold on the best-of-seven series.

Asked what he saw on the goal, Lundqvist replied, "That’s the problem, I didn’t see it. It hit me in the head and went straight up, and nobody saw it, and it just landed on his stick.

"At some point, you’re gonna need some puck luck to win games. It’s that close, and obviously you can’t see all the bounces, but from where I’m standing every game they’ve been getting the bounces on our guys, on their guys. I’m not gonna blame it all on lucky bounces, but you need it, simple as that, and today they got it again."

Lundqvist had allowed eight goals in the first two games of the series. Despite being hampered by a left shoulder injury, he made 32 saves on Tuesday night. And yet his team finds itself on the brink of playoff elimination.

"It’s really hard to swallow. It’s hard to believe," Lundqvist said. "I thought we played a pretty strong game, but we came up short again and it definitely hurts.

"We just have to regroup here. It’s not over. It’s gonna be a tough night and then you start over and you start focusing on the next one and take it one game a time. That’s all we can do, but this one really stings right now."

Coach John Tortorella was proud of the way Lundqvist played. Sure he surrendered five goals in Game 2, but the Rangers have notched just five all series -- none on the power play.

"[Henrik] was outstanding," Tortorella said. "He was under a lot of pressure and made a lot of great saves."

Added winger Rick Nash: "He’s been great every single game. He’s the backbone of this team. I can’t say enough about him."

Rapid Reaction: Bruins 2, Rangers 1

May, 21, 2013

What it means: The Bruins relinquished a two-game series lead against the Toronto Maple Leafs in Round 1 and seemed determined to not let that happen again in Game 3 of their second-round set against the Rangers. Daniel Paille snapped a 1-1 tie late in the third period, sweeping in a deflected puck to give the Bruins a 2-1 win and commanding 3-0 series lead against a stunned Rangers squad that is now squarely on the brink of elimination. New York wasted a fine effort from Lundqvist, surrendering an abundance of chances to a hungry Bruins team eager to make easy work of their opponents.

Make it four: Bruins defenseman Johnny Boychuk tallied his fourth goal of the playoffs, and it was a big one. Capitalizing on John Moore’s turnover early in the third, Boychuk’s deep wrister beat a screened Lundqvist to tie the game 1-1 at 3:10 in the third period.

Rangers strike first: Set up by Derek Stepan’s clean faceoff win against Patrice Bergeron in the offensive zone, the Rangers got on the board 3:53 into the second period. Taylor Pyatt, screening Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask, got a piece of Ryan McDonagh’s shot through traffic.

Down and out: Rangers defenseman Anton Stralman did not play after taking a hard hit from Boston's Milan Lucic late in the second period.

High-sticking hazard: The officials missed at least three high-sticking penalties during the course of Tuesday’s game, and there was plenty of evidence to prove it. Chris Kreider, Patrice Bergeron, Tyler Seguin and Zdeno Chara all were bleeding at various points throughout the game after catching sticks to the face.

Henrik stands tall: Lundqvist was stellar in preserving a scoreless tie during the first period, making clutch saves on a pair of prime scoring chances for the Bruins. Lundqvist stoned both Chris Kelly and Tyler Seguin on backhanded breakaways, both of which were the result of a couple of Rangers gaffes.

Line matching: With the benefit of the last change, the Rangers deployed their checking line of Pyatt, Brian Boyle and Derek Dorsett against the Bruins line of Brad Marchand, Bergeron and Jaromir Jagr. Earlier in the day, Tortorella called Marchand "the best player in the series so far." Meanwhile, Bruins coach Claude Julien did his best to get hulking defenseman Zdeno Chara on the ice against Rick Nash whenever possible.

Gretzky in the house: The loudest cheer of the game came when hockey legend Wayne Gretzky was announced and featured on the Jumbotron.

Up next: Rangers vs. Bruins, Game 4, Thursday at 7 p.m.

W2W4: Rangers at Bruins, Game 2

May, 19, 2013
AT A GLANCE: With two days between games to rest and recharge, the Rangers and Bruins meet in Beantown for Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. Boston dominated New York in overtime Thursday to take a 1-0 series lead and will look to hold serve on home ice during Sunday's matinee at TD Garden. The Rangers aim to even things up with a better effort before the series shifts to New York.

GAME-TIME DECISION: With the Bruins' blue line already without injured defensemen Dennis Seidenberg (lower body) and Andrew Ference (lower body), they might return one veteran defenseman to the lineup for Game 2. Former Ranger Wade Redden practiced with the team Saturday. Bruins coach Claude Julien did not rule him out, saying he will be a game-time decision.

MAKING SOME CHANGES: Rangers coach John Tortorella was uncharacteristically cryptic Saturday in reference to changes he wanted to make from Game 1 to Game 2. Tortorella said the "adjustments" were not ones to be made on the ice; he declined to elaborate when pressed further about the nature of those adjustments but said he will answer the question "later in the series."

Mindset? Focus? Intensity level? Preparation? Leadership? Perhaps Tortorella will discuss what he means after Sunday's match.

POWER OUTAGE: The Rangers' power-play predicament is not subject to speculation or debate. Even Tortorella admitted that Saturday -- "Our power play stinks," he said -- after an 0-for-3 outing on Thursday that left the team 2-for-31 on the man advantage during the playoffs. Tortorella said it is possible that speedy winger Carl Hagelin might make an appearance on the unit, though he has struggled when placed there before. "He stinks on the power play," Tortorella said. Notice a trend?

BIG MAN ON THE BACK END: Even with a banged-up defensive corps, the Bruins boast a dominant force on their back end in captain Zdeno Chara. The hulking, 6-foot-9 defenseman is a nightmare to play against, as the Rangers' line of Mats Zuccarello, Derick Brassard and Rick Nash is quickly learning. Nash has yet to tally his first playoff goal as a Ranger, and the three were on the ice for the Bruins' game-winning overtime goal Thursday, a play that resulted from Chara's long reach that tipped Brassard's attempt at a cross-ice feed.

W2W4: Rangers at Bruins, Game 1

May, 16, 2013

At a glance: The Rangers and the Bruins square off in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals Thursday night at TD Garden, the first time in more than three months that the two clubs have met. There won't be many surprises, though, as both teams play a hard-nosed, grinding style of game that is sure to result in a gritty, physical series.

The Bruins have one of the deepest teams in the league, with a dangerous top line of Milan Lucic, David Krejci and Nathan Horton, plus several other forwards who are able to contribute (Patrice Bergeron notched both the tying goal and the overtime winner in Game 7 against the Leafs). Meanwhile, the Rangers boast arguably the best goaltender in the league in Henrik Lundqvist and a top shutdown pair of Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi. Expect every inch of the ice to be a battle between. This series should be a throwback to black-and-blue, straightforward, old-time hockey.

Close call: The Bruins got a scare when their main antagonist Brad Marchand left the morning skate, wincing in pain, after pulling up awkwardly on a noncontact drill. Claude Julien assured the media that Marchand was fine and would not miss Game 1. “Brad is gonna be OK,” Julien said. “You’ll see him on the ice tonight.” Marchand plays the left wing on a line with Game 7 hero Bergeron and former Ranger Jaromir Jagr.

Banged-up back end: Although Marchand appears to be fine, the Bruins don’t have the same luck with their defensive corps. Boston will be missing three of its veterans on the blue line in Dennis Seidenberg (lower-body), Andrew Ference (lower-body) and former Ranger Wade Redden (undisclosed), meaning Torey Krug, Dougie Hamilton and Matt Bartkowski will draw into the lineup.

Riding high: After a stunning comeback in Game 7 against the Leafs -- the Bruins erased a 4-1 Toronto lead, including two goals scored within the last 1:22 of regulation -- the Bruins are a confident bunch. But although they’d like to take that momentum into Game 1 against the Rangers, they know they have to wipe the slate clean and look ahead, not behind. “It’s still there. There’s definitely a happiness in here,” Tyler Seguin said. “But there’s also a focus that comes with that.

Fatigue factor: Both teams required seven games in their first-round matchups to advance to the Eastern Conference semifinals, and the Bruins have had a particularly grueling last month with postponement and rescheduling at the end of the regular season.

Battle in goal: The Rangers seem to enjoy the distinct edge in the goaltending department, with reigning Vezina Trophy winner Lundqvist in net. Lundqvist recorded back-to-back shutouts in Games 6 and 7 and surrendered only 12 goals through seven games. Boston's Tuukka Rask had a terrific regular season, posting a 19-10-5 record, with a 2.00 goals-against average and a .929 save percentage. He gave up 18 goals to the Leafs in his first playoff series as the Bruins' No. 1 guy.

Playoff schedule: Rangers vs. Bruins

May, 14, 2013
Thursday: Game 1 in Boston, 7:30 p.m.

Sunday: Game 2 in Boston, 3 p.m.

Tuesday, May 21: Game 3 in New York, 7:30 p.m.

Thursday, May 23: Game 4 in New York, 7 p.m.

Saturday, May 25: Game 5 in Boston, TBA (if necessary)

Monday, May 27: Game 6 in New York, TBA (if necessary)

Wednesday, May 29: Game 7 in Boston, TBA (if necessary)

W2W4: Rangers vs. Capitals, Game 6

May, 12, 2013
AT A GLANCE: One New York hockey team, the Islanders, was eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs Saturday night. The Rangers are desperate to avoid becoming the second.

The Rangers face the Washington Capitals in a must-win Game 6 at Madison Square Garden on Sunday afternoon (4:30 ET). The Rangers held serve with home wins in both Games 3 and 4 and will need to do so again to keep their hopes of advancing alive.

HANK NEEDS HELP: Another terrific performance from goaltender Henrik Lundqvist was spoiled Friday night in D.C. when the Rangers dropped Game 5 in overtime, 2-1. Washington's Mike Ribeiro tallied the game winner -- his first goal of the series -- to force an elimination game in Game 6.

Lundqvist, who turned away 33 shots in Friday's loss, has made no fewer than 27 saves in a game this series. The reigning Vezina Trophy winner has posted an impressive .927 save percentage through five games.

STARS NEED TO STEP UP: If the Rangers are to force a winner-takes-all Game 7 in D.C. on Monday, they'll need their star players to step up. Rick Nash, who led the team with 21 goals during the regular season, has been held off the score sheet in four of five games this series. Despite a goal in Game 4, alternate captain and veteran center Brad Richards has been ineffective, taking turns on the team's fourth line.

Team captain Ryan Callahan cannot be absolved, either. Though his heart and grit are always on full display, Callahan has managed only two assists in five games.

LOOKING TO BREAK THROUGH: Washington star forward Alex Ovechkin has been limited of late as well. The Hart Trophy finalist has been held off the score sheet for the past three games, a first in his playoffs career. The task becomes even tougher with the Caps in hostile territory at MSG, with the home team's ability to make the last change. Rangers coach John Tortorella will do everything he can to get his top defensive pairing of Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh out there against No. 8 and his linemates, Marcus Johansson and Nicklas Backstrom.

NO CLOWE: The Rangers will be without rugged winger Ryane Clowe, who was forced from Game 5 with an undisclosed injury sustained on a hit from Washington's Jason Chimera in the first period. It is not immediately clear who will replace Clowe, though it is possible Chris Kreider returns to the lineup after being scratched the past four games.

Marc Staal not skating Thursday

May, 9, 2013
According to reports out of the Rangers' practice facility in Greenburgh, N.Y., defenseman Marc Staal is not taking part in the team's optional practice Thursday.

Staal, 26, did not play Wednesday night, just two days after making his anticipated return to the lineup for Game 3.

Staal missed two months after a harrowing injury to his right eye. He skated with the team for several weeks before making his comeback, but was forced to deal with blurry vision as a lingering effect from taking Kimmo Timonen's shot to the eye during a game on March 5.

After Game 3, Staal alluded to some issues with his eye that had cropped up the previous week; it is unclear whether those issues resurfaced prior to Game 4.

Staal has previously said he did not want to play and jeopardize the team if he wasn't feeling fully comfortable on the ice and able to contribute.

W2W4: Rangers vs. Capitals, Game 4

May, 8, 2013

AT A GLANCE: The Rangers, who won Game 3 on Monday, have a chance to even their first-round series against the Washington Capitals on Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden.

With Marc Staal adding a big boost to their back end, the Rangers were able to keep Alex Ovechkin off the score sheet in Game 3. But the dynamic No. 8 will likely have a better chance to get involved Wednesday, assuming the Caps stay out of the penalty box. The Rangers took advantage of six power plays Monday night, converting on one and cashing in right at the expiration of another to edge the Caps 4-3.

The game starts at 7:30 p.m. Here is what to watch for:

FRESH LEGS: While the Rangers practiced Tuesday, Capitals coach Adam Oates opted to give his team a day off to rest, recover and regroup before Game 4. The result? A pretty business-like morning skate at MSG on Wednesday. "Guys were feeling pretty focused," said Caps defenseman Karl Alzner.

CLOWE POSSIBLE: Yet to make his postseason debut with the Rangers, gritty forward Ryane Clowe said Wednesday there is a "good chance" he will return for Game 4. Clowe, who has been sidelined since suffering an apparent head injury in the final week of the regular season, has been skating with the team since last week. The 30-year-old winger, who was acquired from San Jose before the trade deadline in April, adds size and experience to the team's roster. Clowe, who played for the Sharks from 2006-13, has 68 playoff games under his belt.

PENALTY PARADE: You can guarantee that discipline will be a main point of the Capitals' emphasis heading into Game 4. Washington took six penalties within the first 27 minutes of Game 3, essentially negating any and all momentum. Alzner said the Caps will try to stay out of the box while trying to get a gauge on the officiating as the game progresses.

"If they're gonna call it tight, we have to be careful," he said. "If they're gonna let us play, we have to take advantage of that."

POWE OUT: Rangers forward Darroll Powe is not expected to play Wednesday after leaving Game 3 with an injury that appeared to be a possible concussion. Powe laid a hard hit on Washington's Joel Ward but caught an elbow to the head upon contact, leaving him woozy as he left the ice. He did not return to the game and did not practice with the team Tuesday.

NOT QUITE YET: Veteran Capitals forward Brooks Laich skated with the team for the first time since undergoing sports-hernia surgery before the playoffs began. Oates said Laich is still "a ways away" from returning, however.

Considering Laich was hampered with a nagging groin injury that limited him to just nine games this season, the Caps want to exercise caution with him. "Obviously, we've set ourselves back a couple of times," Oates said. "We don't want that to happen again, so we're conscious of that."

Nielsen: 'We know we can beat them'

May, 7, 2013
UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- Despite trailing the Pittsburgh Penguins 2-1 in the series, the New York Islanders are a confident bunch heading into Game 4 on Tuesday night at Nassau Coliseum.

Following a Game 1 rout in which the Isles were easily dispatched 5-0, they rebounded with a win in Game 2 and a strong performance in Game 3, despite falling in overtime.

But it's not just about their ability to compete with the top-seeded Penguins. The Islanders truly believe they can pull off the upset.

[+] EnlargeFrans Nielsen
Charles LeClaire/USA TODAY SportsFrans Nielsen and the Islanders can tie the series with a Game 4 victory on Tuesday.
"We know we can beat them," second-line center Frans Nielsen said. "We want this to go as far as possible. This series, too, we've felt they have a lot of guys on their team that can't skate with us. So we want this one to go to seven, because we want to get [it] as tough as possible."

According to Nielsen, speed has been the Islanders' biggest advantage.

"I think when we're moving our feet, they've got guys up front, on the [defense] that we can see are struggling a little bit," Nielsen said. "We've gotta skate with 'em. If we stop skating, we don't have a chance."

Even Sidney Crosby admitted the Islanders have created problems for the Penguins with their transition game and opportunistic style of play.

Pittsburgh enjoys the distinct advantage on special teams, but the Islanders have been solid at even strength.

"They've probably carried the play a little bit more," Crosby said. "They've had a little more zone time, I think. They're coming hard, but I think we've hurt ourselves with turnovers. ... I think that something we can definitely improve on."

PENGUINS UPDATE: Brooks Orpik and James Neal took part in the Penguins' morning skate, though it is not immediately clear whether they will return to the lineup Tuesday night.

The Penguins have adopted a playoff policy of declining to answer injury or lineup questions. That goes for coach Dan Bylsma and the players themselves.

Neither Orpik nor Neal committed to a return, though all indications are that both players are close.

Neal, who practiced with the team's first power-play unit during the skate, said he doesn't expect to be eased back into it, whenever he returns. The 25-year-old winger was forced from Game 1 with a lower-body injury and has not played since.

"It's playoffs," Neal said. "I'm not going to go back in unless I can help the team out and play my best."

Orpik could do nothing to help his team while watching from the press box during the nail-biter of a finish in Game 3, an experience he described as "the most nervous" he has ever been. The veteran defenseman suffered a lower-body injury during the last week of the regular season and has yet to make an appearance in the 2013 playoffs.

"At this time of year, you want to heal as quick as possible," Orpik said. "It never heals as quickly as you want it to, but you just try to be patient with it. That's tough."

W2W4: Rangers vs. Capitals, Game 3

May, 6, 2013
At a glance: Down two games in their first-round matchup against the Washington Capitals, the Rangers are desperate to win a game at home as the series shifts to New York on Monday night at 7:30.

Looking to avoid that dreaded 3-0 hole, the Rangers hope to get a lift from the crowd at Madison Square Garden as they try to stop Alex Ovechkin and the Caps' venerable power play from striking again.

Here is what to watch for:

Special teams: In a tight battle projected to come down to special teams, the Capitals have had the distinct edge. Washington has tallied a power-play goal in each of the first two games -- that unit was ranked first overall in the league during the regular season -- and boasts a stout penalty kill that has held the Rangers without a man-up goal this series. The Blueshirts' ailing power play failed to even register a shot on goal during two critical opportunities late in Saturday's 1-0 overtime loss in D.C.

On the mend: Both Derek Dorsett (collarbone) and Brian Boyle (lower body) returned to action on Saturday, providing the Rangers some added size and grit. They have two other players who are inching toward a return, as Ryane Clowe (believed to be a concussion) and defenseman Marc Staal (eye) appear to be making progress.

Staal's presence would be a massive boost for the Rangers' blue line as it tries to contain Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Mike Ribeiro and Troy Brouwer.

Holt up: With the reigning Vezina Trophy winner in net, the Rangers enjoy a clear advantage in the goaltending department. But New York wasted a sensational 37-save performance by Henrik Lundqvist on Saturday, while 23-year-old Capitals counterpart Braden Holtby recorded the shutout. Holtby hasn't had to face the same pressure as Lundqvist, but he has been stellar for the Capitals in limiting the Rangers to only one goal combined over the first two games.

Barn rockin' as playoffs return to L.I.

May, 5, 2013

UNIONDALE, N.Y. – Nassau Coliseum has earned many pejoratives in its slow, stagnant march into antiquity, but Sunday's matinee was a glimpse into just how electric an atmosphere the New York Islanders' home can still provide.

Yes, it's decrepit, outdated and in shambles, but the old barn was rocking Sunday in hosting the Islanders in Pittsburgh Penguins in a riveting Game 3 of their first-round series.

Legions of Islanders loyalists packed the concrete corners of the parking lot, tailgating from the early morning until puck drop. A hearty showing of fans was on hand more than an hour before the game began, starting enthusiastic if not erratic chants, and booing even the Penguins' staff members who dared to venture out to the visiting bench before warmups.

[+] EnlargeIslanders fan
Bruce Bennett/Getty ImagesIslanders fans aren't just glad to be in the playoffs. They believe their team to win.
When the Islanders finally took the ice, shortly before noon, the noise was overpowering in welcoming the team back after a trip to Pittsburgh that left the series split 1-1.

It was an experience unlike any other for many of the Islanders, despite the disappointing 5-4 overtime loss.

Islanders forward Colin McDonald said he could sense the intensity in the bulding even before the team emerged from the locker room.

"We're sitting here in the locker room before the game, before warmups, and we could hear 'em through the walls. I felt like I was 10 years old, just getting the goosebumps, just so excited to get out there," McDonald said. "I really did feel like I was a kid."

"It [was] a pretty special moment," McDonald continued. "To be honest, I'm trying to enjoy this as much as possible, but at the same time we have a job to do and I have a job to do. But you never know when you'll get an opportunity like this again. It really was a fun night, despite the game."

Even Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma, familiar with the place from his days as an Islanders assistant coach, tipped his hat to the crowd as factor the Penguins were forced to neutralize.

"The building was crazy. They got a lot of momentum," Bylsma said. "We wanted to settle the game down."

He was, of course, talking about the way the Islanders harnessed that energy from the 16,170 in attendance to jump out to a 2-0 lead 5:41 into play. It was a captivating stretch for the crowd, which took turns lauding the efforts of the Islanders and jeering Penguins netminder Marc-Andre Fleury.

"Look at the way we started. I think it was pretty obvious there." said McDonald, who spent five-plus seasons in the AHL before earning a two-year contract extension from the Islanders with his impressive 2013 season. "It's hard to maintain that pace for a full 60 minutes. I think we've been looking forward to this for a while, even going back to the regular season. Obviously, the fans deserve this. They've waited a long time for this.

"We knew it was gonna be a great atmosphere. As a player, you really do appreciate this. It's such a humbling experience. You're thankful to be part of it."

And with the Islanders aiming to tie the series again, they know they'll be able to count on that crowd again on Tuesday.

"It was great. You feed off that type of energy. It was an unbelievable experience to get our first playoff game in here," said Matt Moulson. "And I'm sure the crowd will be just as good next game."