NEW YORK -- Washington Capitals coach Adam Oates revealed on Sunday that he would not be making any changes to his lineup heading into Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the New York Rangers.
Sporting mostly the same lineup that has given the team a 3-2 series lead, Oates acknowledged that the Capitals' chances of closing out this opening-round series could hinge on the opening moments in front of what figures to be a raucous Madison Square Garden crowd.
"Obviously it's their building. They're going to feel good in front of their home crowd. We need a good start to get into the game," Oates said. "We expect them to come hard. We just need to handle all the decisions you need to make early to get into the game. We can't give them any more ammo."
It was the Rangers, as the road team, who got off to a quick start in Game 5, taking a 1-0 lead just 53 seconds into the contest and outshooting the Capitals 10-8 in the opening period. But the Capitals were able to kill off first-period penalties to Jason Chimera and John Erskine, keeping the game close through 20 minutes.
Washington would slowly tilt the ice in its favor as the game went on, tying the score and eventually outshooting the Rangers 13-4 in the third period before Mike Ribeiro won the game 9:24 into overtime.
Looking at a prime opportunity to advance to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Washington is hoping to take some of that momentum into Game 6 at MSG.
"Guys are ready to play. We would have liked to play yesterday, just because we would have been able to roll it over a little bit quicker. We're ready to close this team out and move on," forward Troy Brouwer said. "We can't give them any life. The fourth [win] and the close-out game is always the hardest. If the team that has their back against the wall gets life early and confidence and has that will to win and that momentum, then they're a very dangerous team to handle."
In a series that has seen the home team win every game, the true challenge for Washington could be keeping things close in the third period away from Verizon Center. While neither team scored a third-period goal in any of Washington's three home wins, the Rangers have outscored the Capitals 4-2 in the third period of the teams' two games at MSG. That's a startling figure for a team that wen 8-1-1 in their last 10 road games of the regular season.
"If we lose, then we're fighting for our season. We have to treat this like an elimination game," defenseman John Carlson said. "It's the playoffs. We have to stick to our plans and do the things that got us here."