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Round 2
Round 3
Stanley Cup Final
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."

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo
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POSTED ON Friday, 04.15.2011 / 1:21 PM

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

Wideman back skating for Capitals

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Four days ago Dennis Wideman was released after a nearly two-week stay in the hospital to recover from a hematoma and compartment syndrome in his leg, but he was on the ice here Friday morning at Kettler Capitals Iceplex.

Wideman did some light skating in a track suit before his teammates went on the ice for their morning skate. He hasn't played since hurting his right leg March 29 against Carolina after a collision with Tuomo Ruutu.

"A really surprising sign, but a very good sign," Washington coach Bruce Boudreau said. "He skated for about 15 minutes and felt pretty good, so maybe my assessment of three weeks was a little premature.”

Boudreau had previously said he didn't expect Wideman to be available until the second round at the earliest, but he said Friday it is possible the trade deadline acquisition is back before then.

"Sooner than later," Boudreau said. "Who knows? Depending on what kind of shape he can get into in a hurry and how long this series [extends], it might even be in this round.

"There was no damage to the muscle and that’s why he’s able to be out here doing what he’s doing. That’s a really good sign -- and it shows how tough he is."

Washington's other injured defenseman, Tom Poti, was back on the ice in full gear after take a day off. Poti hasn't played since Jan. 12 because of a groin injury. Boudreau said Thursday that his other six defensemen (not including Wideman) are playing so well that it might take injuries for Poti get back in the lineup when he is pronounced fit to play.

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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 / 1:54 PM

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

Poti 'sore', misses practice

Washington Capitals defenseman Tom Poti has had a frustrating year because of a reoccurring groin injury, and his return might not be anytime in the near future.

The Capitals had an optional practice Thursday at Kettler Capitals Iceplex, but Poti was missing because coach Bruce Boudreau said he was "sore" after his on-ice workout Wednesday. Poti was playing in a game of sideways 3-on-3 with the guys who would eventually be healthy scratches that night for Game 1 of this series when he was involved in a collision.

Poti stayed down on the ice for a few seconds and did not appear to be comfortable when he got back up. Assistant coach Bob Woods took his place in the game.

Boudreau said there might not be a place in the lineup waiting for the veteran Poti even when he is healthy enough to play.

"He hasn't played in four months now and I think our defense is playing pretty well," Boudreau said. "So it'd be pretty hard for him, unless there's injuries, to get back in."

The Capitals have six healthy defensemen in front of Poti right now, plus trade deadline addition Dennis Wideman could be back during the second round to add another body to a crowded blueline corps.
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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 / 2:59 PM

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

Capitals ready to rely on 'unflappable' Neuvirth

ARLINGTON, Va. -- No player in the Washington Capitals dressing room has spent more time with Michal Neuvirth than defenseman Karl Alzner, so it fair to say he's got a pretty good handle on the goaltender's personality.

"He's seems to be kind of be unflappable," Alzner said. "He's very calm on and off the ice. I think that in this situation, that's going to be pretty good for him. It has proven well for him in the playoffs in Hershey a couple of times. He's just a guy that if he gets scored on, he doesn't really let it get to him too much."

That demeanor will be put to the test Wednesday night at Verizon Center when Neuvirth is in net for his first career NHL playoff game against the New York Rangers. Neuvirth and fellow 2006 draft pick Semyon Varlamov have spent this season jostling for the No. 1 job in Washington, with fellow young netminder Braden Holtby also squeezing his way into the competition.

Varlamov entered the year with more NHL postseason experience than Neuvirth, but the 23-year-old from the Czech Republic was able to stay healthy longer and that proved to play a big role in the derby.

"Right now, he's played way more games. He's won 27 games for us," Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said. "It's not my thought only -- it is a collaboration of all the coaches. We thought he was the guy who has played the most games down the stretch and he's played the big games down the stretch and he's won the big games that we've needed to win."

While Varlamov has played in 19 postseason games for Boudreau, twice beginning the playoffs as Jose Theodore's backup before supplanting the veteran, Neuvirth has built a formidable postseason resume of his own. He helped Plymouth to an Ontario Hockey League title and Memorial Cup berth in 2007, and has won back-to-back Calder Cup championships with Washington's AHL affiliate, the Hershey Bears.

Neuvirth was named the Calder Cup MVP in 2009, and he might have been even more valuable in 2010. He won 30 postseason games in that span, and defeated some elite goaltending prospects (Tuukka Rask, Cory Schneider and Jonathan Bernier) along the way.

"We were in control of every series pretty much the first year, but the second year not so much," defenseman John Carlson said. "We went down to Manchester, we were down to Texas, but he kept us in there and made it so we could battle back and win.

"He's a big-game goalie. He likes to be in that moment. He elevates his game when he's in that moment, it seems. For a defenseman it makes you feel pretty comfortable. He's had so much success and you feel good in front of him."

Boudreau was once Hershey's coach and maintains strong relationships with members of the Bears organization. He spent parts of those two Calder Cup runs watching at Giant Center with Hershey general manager Doug Yingst and other personnel evaluators in the organization after the Captials were knocked out of the NHL playoffs.

"I saw a lot of games in the playoffs last year," Boudreau said. "His demeanor when it is crunch time was outstanding. Championships are not only very difficult to win at any level, it takes something special to win them. He's done both. I don't classify him as a rookie. This is his third year pro. We thought he was our guy."

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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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1 | 2

Once again, it shows character in this dressing room. Once again, there's no quitting in here. We all wanted this so bad and we worked so hard to get home-ice advantage and we weren't going to let this one slide.

— Colorado Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog on his team's OT Game 1 win vs. Minnesota Wild