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Round 2
Round 3
Stanley Cup Final
POSTED ON Thursday, 05.10.2012 / 12:32 PM

By Corey Masisak -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Capitals series blog

Status of Beagle for Game 7 is uncertain

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Washington Capitals coach Dale Hunter said checking-line center Jay Beagle is "day-to-day" after missing Game 6 with lower-body injury and didn't say if he would return to the lineup for Game 7 against the New York Rangers.

"We don't know for sure yet," Hunter said when asked if Beagle might join the team for practice Friday.

Beagle didn't skate Tuesday or Wednesday before Game 6, but Hunter said before the game that he would play. Mike Vogel, senior writer for capitals.nhl.com and reporter for Caps 365, reported on Twitter that Beagle was in the dressing room putting his equipment on but the injury "did not repsond as he and team had hoped."

Jeff Halpern replaced Beagle in the lineup. Brooks Laich said he didn't know Beagle was out until the team was on the ice for warm-ups. Beagle blocked a shot in Game 5 with his right leg, which is likely what caused the injury.

Beagle has become one of Washington's most critical players and one of Hunter's most trusted guys, often logging big minutes against top competition in this postseason.
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POSTED ON Wednesday, 05.09.2012 / 1:12 PM

By Ben Raby -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Capitals series blog

Ovechkin: 'We just can't go home right now'

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Alex Ovechkin, Brooks Laich and Alexander Semin will all skate in their 50th career playoff games when the Washington Capitals host the New York Rangers Wednesday night in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals (7:30 p.m, ET, NBCSN, CBC).

In their first 49 playoff games, all with Washington and all since 2008, Ovechkin, Laich and Semin have faced elimination in a Game 6 three times. The Caps forced a Game 7 in all three instances.

They have no choice but to make it 4-for-4 if they hope to extend their 2012 postseason as they trail the Rangers 3-2 with Game 6 at Verizon Center.

"You don't want the season to start over for next year," Ovechkin said. "And you don't want season be ended tonight. It's going to be do-or-die. Right now everybody knows and everybody understands we just can't go home right now.

"I don't think we deserve to end the season. Everybody knows, I think, we [have a] good hockey club. We beat the Stanley Cup champion in Game 7 at home. … Last game they got a little luck… Tonight is going to be different game and tonight is going to be a much different atmosphere."

The Capitals will look to take advantage of the home crowd just as they did at the start of Game 4 when they outshot the Rangers 14-3 in the first period and led 1-0 at the first intermission.

The Rangers replied with a strong start of their own in Game 5 at Madison Square Garden, outshooting the Caps 17-4 in the opening 20 minutes and grabbing a 1-0 lead.

Washington is 6-1 in the playoffs when scoring first; 0-5 when allowing the first goal.

"Tonight being down a game, we’re going to be desperate and we're going to throw everything at them," Troy Brouwer said. "We've played good in the games when we've been down in the series, and tonight especially being at home, we should have a lot of jump, we should have a lot of excitement in the building and we should be able to come out hard."

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POSTED ON Wednesday, 05.09.2012 / 12:40 PM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Capitals series blog

Projected Game 6 lineup for Rangers

WASHINGTON -- The only Ranger who didn't participate in practice at Verizon Center on Wednesday morning was Brandon Dubinsky, who remains out with a lower-body injury. Forward Mats Zuccarello was once again participating, but he told reporters Tuesday that he is still about two weeks away from being ready for a game.

If the lines that Rangers coach John Tortorella used for Game 5 hold, this is what the team will look like when they take the ice for Game 6 with a chance to eliminate the Washington Capitals:

Carl Hagelin - Brad Richards - Marian Gaborik
Artem Anisimov - Brian Boyle - Ryan Callahan
Ruslan Fedotenko - Derek Stepan - Brandon Prust
Chris Kreider -John Mitchell - Mike Rupp

Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi
Marc Staal - Anton Stralman
Michael Del Zotto - Stu Bickel

Henrik Lundqvist
Martin Biron

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo

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POSTED ON Wednesday, 05.09.2012 / 12:36 PM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Capitals series blog

Richards living up to billing as big-game player

WASHINGTON -- Brad Richards had his ups and downs during the regular season. He had two goals and no assists over 10 games in December and followed that with a stretch of three points in 12 games between January and February.

During the Stanley Cup Playoffs, as is his modus operandi, he's been coming up big.

Richards is fifth in postseason scoring with 10 points in 12 games, including what could've been a season-saving goal with 6.6 seconds remaining in regulation to tie Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Semifinal series with the Capitals on Monday night. The Rangers would go on to win in overtime and take a 3-2 series lead with Game 6 scheduled for Wednesday night in Verizon Center (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC).

In his postseason career, Richards has 72 points in 75 games and had seven-game winning goals during the Tampa Bay Lightning's run to Stanley Cup Final in 2004 when he also won the Conn Smythe Trophy.

Rangers coach John Tortorella is known for his short answers, but it was fitting in this case when he was asked what makes Richards so good in the playoffs.

"He’s got 'it,'" said Tortorella, who coached Richards for seven seasons in Tampa Bay.

"I've known him since he was a kid, when he broke into the League," he said, "and he's made big plays at key times."

With the Rangers staring elimination in the eye in Game 6 against the Ottawa Senators in the conference quarterfinals, Richards put his team ahead for good by uncorking a slap shot during a 5-on-3 power play that ripped past goaltender Craig Anderson.

Rangers forward Ruslan Fedotenko was Richards' teammate in Tampa Bay four seasons, including 2004, and knows what Richards means to the Rangers' chances of winning a Stanley Cup this year.

"He's a good player. That's why the team got him in free agency -- to help us win the Cup," Fedotenko said. "One guy can't do it, but he's a big piece to the puzzle. He knows how to compete in the playoffs."

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo
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POSTED ON Wednesday, 05.09.2012 / 12:30 PM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Capitals series blog

Fedotenko feels Rangers should come out aggressive

WASHINGTON -- Facing elimination Wednesday night at Verizon Center, the Capitals will most likely come out with a strong push in the first period against the Rangers, who lead the Eastern Conference Semifinal series 3-2.

Rangers forward Ruslan Fedotenko, who has played in 100 postseason games, said the key to facing a desperate team isn't weathering the first-period storm; it's actually the opposite.

"I say initiate it and just go for it, not sitting and weathering anything," Fedotenko said. "It's do-or-die. The other team is desperate. That's always the hardest game to win for the team that's trying to close it out. I feel like that's the biggest game for everybody."

The Rangers are one of the League's youngest teams, but they channeled their emotions positively when facing elimination in two instances during the first round against Ottawa. That's nothing new for Fedotenko, who has won two Stanley Cups in his career with the Tampa Bay Lightning and Pittsburgh Penguins.

"For me, it's easier to control because I can focus on the bigger picture and whatever's happening, just deal with it," Fedotenko said. "For other people, maybe it's harder to control the emotion. Everybody wants to win."

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo
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POSTED ON Wednesday, 05.09.2012 / 12:00 PM

By Ben Raby -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Capitals series blog

Beagle doesn't practice, but Capitals say he'll play

ARLINGTON, Va. -- The Washington Capitals have long described Jay Beagle as a teammate who treats every practice like a Game 7.

But with the Capitals looking to extend their Eastern Conference Semifinal series to a decisive seventh game, Beagle was the lone absentee from Washington's morning skate ahead of Game 6 Wednesday against the New York Rangers (7:30 p.m., ET, NBCSN, CBC).

"He's fine," coach Dale Hunter said of his third line center. "I'm just resting his legs… He's fine. He's going to play."

Beagle blocked a shot from Rangers defenseman Anton Stralman early in the second period of Game 5 that got a piece of his leg. Beagle was limping after the blocked shot and played under 15 minutes for just the third time in his last 14 games.

"He's been big for us," Troy Brouwer said. "He's been great on the penalty kill, he's our only right-handed centerman and he's taken a lot of draws and done real well in that aspect. He does a great job out there, he kind of gets overlooked on this team, but he deserves a lot of credit for how he's played so far in the playoffs."

Added Karl Alzner: "Jay's been logging tons of minutes and he's been doing all the key things that have been helping us succeed, the little areas that a lot of times go unnoticed but are extremely important. Regardless of what happens, somebody else has a chance to do it now if he's not in the lineup."

While Hunter dismissed the possibility of Beagle missing Game 6, it appears that a contingency plan may be in place.

Veteran Jeff Halpern came off the ice Wednesday morning at the same time as the rest of the Caps' regulars instead of staying out for extra work with the healthy scratches.

Halpern has been a healthy scratch in 19 straight games dating back to the regular-season and in 24 of Washington's last 27 games.

The 36-year-old declined to comment on his status for tonight. If Beagle cannot play, Halpern could serve as the Caps' only right-handed center. Halpern led the Caps and was fifth in the League with a 58.3 faceoff percentage during the regular-season.

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POSTED ON Tuesday, 05.08.2012 / 5:12 PM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Capitals series blog

Stralman has refined game since joining Rangers

NEW YORK -- John Tortorella didn't know much about Anton Stralman when the Rangers signed the defenseman in November, and he wasn't all that enamored with his game after he watched a few games.

The 25-year-old wasn't offered a contract by the New Jersey Devils after training camp, so Stralman returned to his native Sweden before the injury-riddled Rangers came calling. The offensive-minded blueliner isn't exactly the prototypical player for a Tortorella-coached team, and Stralman knew it.

"I kind of knew right away I had to change my game a little bit," Stralman told NHL.com. "I was all offense, no defense before. I know that's not going to work."

It took months or refining, educating, tearing down and building up, but Stralman has become a reliable portion of the Rangers' secondary blueliners. He usually starts a game paired with Marc Staal, but Tortorella tends to use sixth defenseman Stu Bickel so infrequently that Stralman finds himself with Michael Del Zotto at times.

Stralman's three goals lead all defensemen in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"I kind of kicked back on the offensive part and worked hard on the defensive part and tried to take it all in and buy into the system we play," Stralman said. "Along the way, when I felt more and more confident, I tried to get back to my old game without sacrificing anything at the other end. It's been a long road and a bit of a struggle, too, at some points. I'm happy with my game right now."

The hardest part for Stralman was developing the physical edge Tortorella holds so dear. It's taken a while, but Stralman has added a hip check to his repertoire that keeps onrushing forwards honest along the boards.

But while those booming hits brought the fans at Madison Square Garden to their feet, Stralman's offensive game began to slip. The hardest part for him was finding a balance, but he said Tortorella making him a healthy scratch later in the season helped him achieve that missing balance.

"That's been the most frustrating part," Stralman said. "I try to peel back on the offensive part and nail the defensive part. Along the way, I kind of lost the offensive part a little bit and that was really frustrating to kind of go look for it and try to find it. There was a lot of frustration going on. I got scratched there for a few games. It was kind of good to look back and try to figure out a way to go. Ever since that, I think I relaxed a little bit more to try to find my own game. It's coming along."

Stralman has two of his three goals in the postseason on the power play, but his goal during the Rangers' 3-2 overtime win Game 5 came at even-strength. Through 12 playoff games -- the first of Stralman's career -- he has three goals, two assists and is plus-2.

That's not too bad for someone who wasn't in the coach's good graces upon his arrival.

"He's been consistent defensively and offensively," Tortorella said. "That was my biggest gripe with him. If one was going well, the other part was stuck. To generalize, he needed to compete harder. That was the inconsistent part of his game. That's why he wasn't a complete player. That's something you can control as a player. I think he has answered that question. He has been a really good competitor for us."

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo

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POSTED ON Tuesday, 05.08.2012 / 4:12 PM

By Ben Raby -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Capitals series blog

Third period full of missed opportunities for Caps

ARLINGTON, Va. -- If the Washington Capitals fall to the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, players and management alike will likely spend the summer wondering how things could have been different had they held on to their 2-1 lead in the final seconds of Game 5.

Beginning with a double-minor high-sticking penalty against Joel Ward with 22 seconds remaining in regulation, followed by Brad Richards' tying-goal with 6.6 seconds to play and Marc Staal's game-winning tally 95 seconds into overtime, the Caps potentially saw their season fall by the wayside in a stunning 3-2 OT loss.

While it is hard to ignore how Game 5 ended and the series of events that led to its conclusion, the Capitals acknowledged Tuesday that their margin of error in the final minute of regulation should never have been so thin.
From the time John Carlson's power-play goal gave the Capitals a 2-1 lead at 4:20 of the third period, the Caps had ample opportunity to double their lead.

Less than three minutes after Carlson's goal, Nicklas Backstrom broke free from Dan Girardi and went one-on-one against Henrik Lundqvist. Backstrom's backhand attempt grazed off of Lundqvist's shoulder and hit the crossbar.

"I should have scored," Backstrom said Tuesday. "It would have been a different game."

The same can be said if Alexander Semin and Alex Ovechkin had converted on a two-on-one with seven minutes to play in regulation. Instead, Girardi got a stick in the way of Semin's pass to Ovechkin, and a shot on goal was never even attempted.

Ditto for a Capitals' three-on-one with just over five minutes to play when the trio of Ovechkin, Brooks Laich and Marcus Johansson failed to get a shot on goal. This time it was Staal who got a piece of Laich's intended pass to Ovechkin as Washington gained the blue line.

"We should've executed better," said Johansson, who has gone seven games without a point and is last among Washington forwards with a minus-6 rating in the playoffs.

"[Backstrom's chance] is just bad luck -- it hits the crossbar. But we had a couple two-on-ones and three-on-ones where we should've scored and we didn't even get a shot on net. That's not good enough. We have enough skill and good hockey players to do something better with that. That's something we have to get better at."

The Rangers outshot the Capitals 38-18 in Game 5, and just as the Capitals are left to wonder what could have been had they converted their third period scoring chances, New York likely would have been wondering the same had Washington held on for a 2-1 win.

"They played really well early on, but as the game wore on I thought we got better," Laich said. "They had more shots, but we might have had the better scoring chances. Nicky [hitting the crossbar] and Alex, and Alex had a two-on-one, and we had a three-on-one which I made a bad play on. So we're going to commit to defense again and try and get the offense, and when we do get those chances we'll try to capitalize on it."

"We need to bear down," said Mike Green, who played a team-high 24:47 in Game 5. "When we get opportunities to score, we've got to put it in the net. I think that would have been the difference in the game… It's just [about] us making the right play. Three-on-one, you should be able to get a shot at least. Their D-men made great plays, but we've got to do better."

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POSTED ON Tuesday, 05.08.2012 / 3:08 PM

By Ben Raby -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Capitals series blog

Caps used to bouncing back from tough OT defeats

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Before falling in overtime in Game 5 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series against the New York Rangers, the Washington Capitals had already dropped three games in OT in this year's Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Following each defeat, though, the Caps have shown the type of resiliency they admit was often missing in playoffs past.

There was a series-opening 1-0 OT loss in Round 1 against the Boston Bruins. The Caps responded with a double overtime win of their own in Game 2.

There was a 4-3 overtime loss in Game 6 against the Bruins, in which the Caps blew an opportunity to eliminate the defending Stanley Cup champions on home ice. The Caps responded with an overtime win in Boston in Game 7.

Then there was a 2-1 triple overtime loss against the Rangers in Game 3 of their second-round series, in which Washington came up short in the third-longest game in franchise history. The Caps responded with a home win in Game 4 three days later.

While Washington's first three OT losses this postseason were all disheartening in their own right, Monday's 3-2 loss in New York may top them all.

The Caps held a 2-1 lead in the final minute of Game 5 before a double-minor high-sticking penalty against Joel Ward sent the Rangers to the power play. New York's Brad Richards tied the game with 6.6 seconds remaining in regulation, while Marc Staal netted the game-winning-goal just 95 seconds into OT.

"We were close, but we can't think that way," said defenseman John Carlson, who was on the ice for both the game-tying and winning goals. "We're all still positive here. We know that in the last series we missed an opportunity in Game 6 to close it out at home. [Monday] we missed an opportunity to go up in the series 3-2. But all we're worried about right now is winning [Wednesday]."

The Capitals met at their Northern Virginia practice facility Tuesday to watch video, but did not skate. Of the six players made available to the media, all six echoed the sentiments of coach Dale Hunter and said of the Game 5 loss that "stuff happens," and "that’s hockey."

No matter when or how they have lost in these playoffs, the Capitals have been quick to brush off any disappointment, and dating back to the regular season they have not lost back-to-back games since March 22-23.

"I think we control our emotions a little better," said forward Brooks Laich who has played in all 49 of Washington's playoff games since 2008.

"Even when we win, we're not bouncing off the ceiling -- it's more of a business atmosphere. And when we lose, we know that we can bounce back. We have a very good hockey team, so we never get too high, we never get too low, we just stay pretty composed. A lot of that comes from Dale … he's not panicking."

Added Hunter: "We have to [respond]. It's hockey. The guys are ready to battle [in Game 6] and that's what it's all about when you play in the Stanley Cup  playoffs. ... The guys are resilient; they'll bounce back and have a great game."

Now the Capitals have no choice but to come back from their latest OT setback. The Caps must beat New York in Game 6 on Wednesday (7:30 p.m., ET, NBCSN, CBC) to extend the series. Game 7 would be Saturday at Madison Square Garden.

"We've just got to put it behind us and come out harder," said Nicklas Backstrom who added that this latest OT loss may be tougher than the triple OT loss in Game 3.

"I think so, but you've just got to forget about it. It's bad luck, I think, it's just six seconds left and the puck was bouncing all over the place. I guess that happens in hockey sometimes, and you've just got to bounce back."
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POSTED ON Monday, 05.07.2012 / 7:28 PM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Capitals series blog

Game 5 lineups for Rangers, Caps

NEW YORK -- The Rangers and Capitals are playing Game 5 Monday at Madison Square Garden for the right to win the Eastern Conference Semifinal-round series in six games. The series is deadlocked at 2-2 with the Capitals winning Game 4 at home, 3-2.

The Rangers and Caps split the first two games at Madison Square Garden and then split the next two at Verizon Center, including the triple OT thriller that the Rangers won.

The lineups for both teams are the same for Game 5 as they were for Game 4. The only changes are in the Rangers' lines as rookie Chris Kreider, who scored the winning goal in Game 1, warmed up on the fourth line with John Mitchell and Mike Rupp.

Kreider being demoted to the fourth line comes after he was benched for the third period of Game 4. He had a turnover that led to a goal in that game.
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For me, it's a great win for our hockey team and for a lot of people back in Columbus, especially our fans in particular … people who have been devoted to this organization, it's big.

— Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards on their win vs. the Penguins in Game 2, the franchise's first-ever Stanley Cup Playoff victory