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Posted On Friday, 04.15.2011 / 11:47 PM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2011 ECQF: Washington-New York Live Blog

Avery provides boost, but outcome remains same

WASHINGTON -- The consensus following Game 2 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series with the Capitals on Friday night was the New York Rangers played a far better game than they did in Game 1.

They had a much improved first period, outshooting the Capitals 13-7 while controlling the territorial play, something coach John Tortorella made a point of emphasis between Games 1 and 2.

They held the Capitals to a mere 18 shots after allowing 29 in nearly 80 minutes of Game 1.

But at the end of Game 2, the Rangers were once again on the losing end, falling 2-0 after the Caps scored twice in 1:57 early in the second period to ruin what was a very solid effort by the Rangers up until that point.

"It's a valuable lesson, that's for sure," Tortorella said. "The second shift of the second period, we had some turnovers. It doesn't cause the goal, but I think it causes a momentum change right away in the second period. For about five or six minutes there, they surged on us. They scored a goal, we take a penalty, get an unfortunate bounce, and that's a big part of the game.

"I thought for most of the game, we played much better than the other night, much more of the style we need to play. We got hurt by a surge tonight. Good teams do it. We're going to have to try to get one ourselves as we go to our building."

The lucky bounce came during a Capitals power play. Defenseman Mike Green had his shot from the right point blocked, but it deflected to Jason Arnott as if it was a perfect cross-ice pass, and Arnott buried it to make it 2-0.

"They got a little lucky bounce there and took advantage of it," said Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who made 16 saves. "We have to stay positive. We need everyone to play their absolute best to have a chance."

Inserting Sean Avery into the lineup in place of Mats Zuccarello seemed to have the desired effect. He played 10:22, much of it in the third period, and was his usually pesky self.

Avery could be found bumping with goaltender Michal Neuvirth and scrapping after the play with any nearby Capitals player who didn't appreciate the tactic. Avery even had three shots, third most on the Rangers.

Tortorella liked what he saw from Avery, so it's probable he'll stay in the lineup for Sunday afternoon's Game 3

"I thought in the third period, that was a pretty good line," Tortorella said of Avery, Brian Boyle and Brandon Prust. "They gave us some zone time. I thought we did some really good forechecking with that line."

The glaring problem for the Rangers was once again the lack of scoring. They have just 1 goal in the series and missed on a couple of golden opportunities in the third period that could have cut the lead in half. The best scoring chance came when Prust found the puck on his stick with Neuvirth out of position, but his shot missed the mostly open net.

"You have to score a goal," Tortorella said. "We just have no room for any mistake when you don’t score a goal or score just one. That's what's happened.

"I'm not discouraged with the hockey club. We need to release some…just as far as scoring a goal. We need to just relax, play the way we did for a number of minutes tonight and just find a way to bang a couple in."

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Posted On Thursday, 04.14.2011 / 3:26 PM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2011 ECQF: Washington-New York Live Blog

Young Rangers get passing grade from Tortorella

Eight Rangers got their first taste of postseason hockey Wednesday, and without going through each individual player to break down their performance, John Tortorella said he liked what he saw from his young guys.

"Overall, the young guys, I was happy," Tortorella said. "Some guys in certain parts of the game, you could see there was some anxiousness, but that's to be expected. This is why we are happy that we're in. This gets some of the young group some experience. They'll be better the next game. They're going to have to be, because they're a big part of our club. A big part of our success is our youth."

A few of the highlights for players making their debuts included: All-Star Derek Stepan was on the ice for Alex Ovechkin's tying goal and lost his stick on the play, but his 25:07 was third-most among Rangers forwards.

Lineup change? -- Tortorella isn't about to give away lineup information during the postseason, but it's possible Mats Zuccarello could be a scratch for Game 2.

He played just 7:34 during Game 1 and was sharing time on a line with Sean Avery during Thursday's practice.

These are obviously subject to change, but these were the line combinations at Verizon Center this afternoon:

Gaborik-Christensen-Prospal
Dubinsky-Stepan-Fedotenko
Wolski-Boyle-Prust
Drury-Anisimov-Avery/Zuccarello

Avery was a healthy scratch quite a bit down the stretch, but Tortorella may want to change things up after a Game 1 loss.

Defending well -- While a couple of the offensive lines were shuffled a bit, don't expect to see much changed in terms of line combinations on the blue line.

Marc Staal, Dan Girardi, Ryan McDonagh and Michael Sauer played the bulk of the minutes, but Bryan McCabe was acquired at the trade deadline of his power-play talents and Matt Gilroy scored the Rangers' lone goal. Overall, Tortorella was pleased with his club's overall play defensively.

"I thought for a lot of the game, our defending wasn't bad," Tortorella said. "I wouldn't say it was great. We're going to have to be better. I thought our best period was our third period. I thought we were playing our best hockey with the lead.

"I thought for good portions of the game, it was good. But it's going to have to be better as the series keeps on going."

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Posted On Thursday, 04.14.2011 / 1:09 AM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2011 ECQF: Washington-New York Live Blog

Staal faces the music

To his credit, Marc Staal didn't duck anyone Wednesday night after his mistake led to Alexander Semin's winner late in overtime.  He sat in the visiting locker room and answered every question thrown his way like the leader he's become during his time in New York.

He tried to clear the puck from his zone, but it was intercepted by Jason Arnott. He slid it to Semin, who one-timed a rocket over Henrik Lundqvist's blocker to give the Capitals a 1-0 series lead.

It was an unceremonious to a busy night for Staal, who played a game-high 33:48 while matching up with the Capitals' top line. He and partner Dan Girardi, who logged the second-most ice time in the game at 32:50, were on the ice for both Caps' goals.

"I was trying to bank it off the glass and out, and he grabbed it out of mid-air," Staal said. "Right now, it's hard to look at personal stuff. We win as a team, we lose as a team. He played a great game for us to give us a chance to win it in overtime and we were just unable to do it."

Considering the Rangers were six minutes from a win in regulation and one bounce from victory in overtime, don't expect much to change from the team's defensive leader.

"We know how we're going to be in the series," Staal said. "It's also disappointing how this one ended. We played a good game. We just couldn’t find a way to get one in overtime."

"We just have to play a few more minutes along the way and hopefully find a way to score another goal when we're up 1-0," Rangers coach John Tortorella said.

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Posted On Wednesday, 04.13.2011 / 2:15 PM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2011 ECQF: Washington-New York Live Blog

Wideman out for series; Caps to match lines?

WASHINGTON -- Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau offered a grim outlook Wednesday for defenseman Dennis Wideman's chances of playing in this series against the Rangers.

"I don’t expect him back for this series, but he’s a really determined young man," Boudreau said. "He’s coming along. He’s walking now. He’s rehabbing it pretty hard right now. He’s a lot better today than he was yesterday. I don’t know if that means anything. If that rate of recovery is good, then it wouldn’t surprise me if in three weeks he’d be ready."

Boudreau didn't get into specifics when he came to matchups for Game 1, but he said he's got an idea for how he wants to go about it.

"We’ll see how it works out," Boudreau said. "Listen, it is so easy to match defense against forwards. Whether you are at home or on the road, it is very simple quite frankly. If they’re matching somebody against one of our lines, especially when the D can go out every second pair and they can get off the ice on any won or lost faceoff in the neutral zone, we’re not going to be too worried about that. It is forwards matching up against forwards that we’ve got an idea of what we want to do."

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Posted On Wednesday, 04.13.2011 / 2:02 PM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2011 ECQF: Washington-New York Live Blog

Tortorella: 'By no means do we fear them'

WASHINGTON -- Rangers coach John Tortorella has never been one to talk about the opposition, be it in the regular season or the playoffs. His mantra is the focus remains on what's happening in his locker room, not his opponents'.

As the No. 8 seed in this series with the Caps, the Rangers are unquestionably the underdogs. But Tortorella made sure to let everyone know about his team's mindset entering the Wednesday's Game 1 at Verizon Center.

"We respect this hockey club," Tortorella said. "By no means do we fear them."

And why would they? The Rangers won the season series 3-1 and delivered thumpings of 6-0 and 7-0 along the way. Of course, Tortorella said none of that matters now.

"Doesn't matter," Tortorella said. "I'm just going to talk about our club. I think that's the most important thing. The way we're trying to go about our business is just take care of our business each and every day. Washington's gone through their process, we're going to go through our process and that's our main concentration."

The Rangers have had their share of woes at Madison Square Garden the past two seasons, but they've been solid on the road. They finished tied for the ninth-most road points this season at 49, but of course, none of that matters to Tortorella.

"We don't care where we're playing. We're good," Tortorella said. "We're good with our mindest, we're good in our skin. We're just going to play. We need to play. We're ready to play. The road, away, we have an understanding how we're going to play, what's expected out of the opposing team, and now, we'll let the players play.

"There's not going to be a bunch of changes from this hockey club. We know who we are, and we're going to try to be who we are. I think that's the most important thing."

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Posted On Saturday, 04.09.2011 / 2:46 PM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Devils-Rangers: A live-blog

Rangers reclaim eighth with 5-2 victory

The Rangers did everything they could Saturday afternoon to get themselves into the postseason. Now they have to hope for a little help.

Chris Drury scored his first goal of the season in his first game in more than two months, and Ryan McDonagh scored the winner as the Rangers took care of business by beating the New Jersey Devils 5-2 at Madison Square Garden.

It's now up to the Tampa Bay Lightning to the beat the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday night. If the Hurricanes win, they will get the Eastern Conference's final playoff spot while the Rangers will be left out for the second season in a row.

Vinny Prospal put the icing on the cake by converting a 2-on-1 pass from Artem Anisimov at 10:49 of the third period.
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Posted On Saturday, 04.09.2011 / 2:05 PM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Devils-Rangers: A live-blog

After two periods: Rangers take 4-2 lead

It didn't take long for the Rangers to tie it in the second period. Wojtek Wolski beat Brodeur during a 2-on-1 with a quick, accurate shot to the stick side at 1:52.

Ryan McDonagh's first NHL goal gave the Rangers a 3-2 lead with 8:01 remaining in the second. The rookie defenseman skated down from the blue line, corralled a pass from Vinny Prospal from behind the net and whipped a wrister over Brodeur's catching glove.

Brandon Prust made it 4-2 with 3:54 left in the second period when he banged home a big rebound off a Brandon Dubinsky shot. The puck slid on under Brodeur, who had allowed four goals on 15 shots to that point.

Shots were 11-10 Devils in the third period.

Should the score hold, the Hurricanes will have to beat the Lightning to reach the postseason. They can win in regulation, overtime or shootout. It doesn't matter how they do it.

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Posted On Saturday, 04.09.2011 / 12:55 PM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Devils-Rangers: A live-blog

Kovalchuk, Drury exchange early goals

It started off pretty badly for the Rangers. They fell behind 1-0 after just 2:03 when Ilya Kovalchuk scored his 31st of the season. He ripped a wrister that looked like it deflected past Henrik Lundqvist, but the goal was credited to Kovalchuk.

The lively crowd at MSG turned angry. But Chris Drury, who hadn't scored a goal all season, responded with perhaps the biggest goal the Rangers have scored all season 1:11 later. He got behind the Devils defense and chipped a diving backhander past Martin Brodeur to bring life back to the Garden.

From there, the Rangers began throwing the body around. Matt Gilroy crushed Vladimir Zharkov behind the Rangers net, and Brian Boyle responded with a couple hits of his own in the Devils' end.

Halfway through the first period, it's 1-1.

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Posted On Saturday, 04.09.2011 / 12:11 PM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Devils-Rangers: A live-blog

Pregame: Line combinations for Rangers, Devils

John Tortorella wouldn't reveal his line combinations before the game, but perhaps pregame warmups will let us know what the Rangers have in store.

During line rushes, it looked like this:

Prospal-Anisimov-Gaborik
Dubinsky-Stepan-Fedotenko
Wolski-Boyle-Prust
Zuccarello-Christensen-Drury

Staal-Girardi
McDonagh-Sauer
McCabe-Gilroy

And since there is another team involved in the game, here's a look at the Devils lines:

Kovalchuk-Zajac-Palmieri
Rolston-Elias-Tedenby
Zharkov-Josefson-Clarkson
Pelley-Steckel-Mair

Tallinder-Fayne
Salmela-Greene
Fraser-Leach

The goaltenders, obviously, will be Henrik Lundqvist for the Rangers and Martin Brodeur for the Devils.

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Posted On Saturday, 04.09.2011 / 10:32 AM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Devils-Rangers: A live-blog

Drury, Zuccarello returning for showdown with Devils

Desperate for a victory, the Rangers are turning to their captain for a shot of adrenaline.

Chris Drury, who has been out since Feb. 5 with a knee injury, will make his return against the Devils on Saturday afternoon. He's been practicing with the team, and coach John Tortorella felt he was ready.

"Dru is Dru. He's been wanting to go for a little bit here," Tortorella said. "I'm not sure exactly how much he'll play. We'll see. He'll take some faceoffs, he'll kill some penalties. He gives us a little bit of juice as far as him coming back. Our captain's back in the lineup. We'll see how it goes as we proceed in the game."

Tortorella, who usually is very forthcoming with line combinations pregame, was more evasive this time when asked who Drury would be playing with.

"Not sure," Tortorella said, before being a bit more honest. "I am sure, but I'm not telling you."

Drury's season has been marred by injuries. He dealt with a broken finger throughout the preseason, then broke that same finger in a different spot in the third game of the season. It cost him 29 games, and he's only played in 23 games this season.

Drury has zero goals and 4 assists, but his presence could be the difference in a game the Rangers are treating as a must-win.

"I think he's well-respected. Dru's not a holler guy in the room. He leads by example," Tortorella said. "I think when you look at him, how hard he's worked at coming back with a chronic knee here, I think that just adds something to your locker room. He's just so well-respected by his teammates. He's been known to make big plays at big times in big games. We'll see where it goes as we start playing the game."

Along with Drury, shootout specialist Mats Zuccarello is back in the lineup after he was sent down to the AHL's Connecticut Whale on April 1. Last season, the Rangers lost their final game of the regular season to the Philadelphia Flyers in a shootout, one that saw Olli Jokinen get stopped by goaltender Brian Boucher to end it.

Zuccarello is 5-for-9 in shootouts this season.

Coming out of the lineup are defenseman Steve Eminger and forward Sean Avery. Defenseman Matt Gilroy, who played at right wing against the Thrashers on Thursday, will drop back to the blue line and play with Bryan McCabe.

"Let me make sure you understand -- Emmy has given us some really good minutes," Tortorella said. "I thought he stepped in really nice (vs. Boston) when (Ryan) McDonagh was struggling a bit. That was a tough decision.

"But we're hoping maybe to get out of our end zone a little bit quicker with Gilly as far as our first pass and maybe add some offense."

The scenario is simple for the Rangers -- earn more points than the Carolina Hurricanes today. If the Rangers lose in regulation to the Devils, it's all over. If they can at least get a point in an overtime/shootout loss, the Rangers can still get into the playoffs if the Hurricanes lose in regulation to the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight.

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