NEW YORK -- Early during the New York Rangers' pre-game practice Monday morning at Madison Square Garden, Alex Ovechkin went out to the visitor's bench and started watching intently.
He was there no longer than a few minutes before a Capitals' Public Relations representative told him he couldn't sit on the bench, but he could go in the stands. Ovechkin stood up, stretched out his chest and muttered something under his breath before walking back to the Capitals' dressing room.
Asked later why he went out to the visitor's bench, which is not a common practice among players, No. 8 smiled and said he wanted to mess with Rangers coach John Tortorella.
Well, why do you think they asked you to leave Ovie?
"Because they're afraid of me, alright?" Ovechkin said before walking away.
Something tells us Ovechkin isn't nervous heading into Game 3 Monday night here at the Garden even though his team trails the best-of-seven Eastern Conference Quarterfinal, 2-0, and he's been shutout so far.
"It's a fun time and it's a hard time and we like when it's a hard time for our team," Ovechkin said. "We bounce back. Right now we have a little bit of pressure, but if we win one game the pressure bounces back to the other locker room. Everybody is going to think, 'Oh, they bounced back and they're coming.' "
That may be exactly what the Capitals are hoping for, but the Rangers aren't any more worried about their opponent than they already were. In fact, they're so focused that Tortorella, when asked about Ovechkin sitting on the visitor's bench during the Rangers' practice, said he didn't even notice No. 8.
"Oh God, I didn't even know," Tortorella said tersely. "This is the first I heard of it. Ask me a question about the game."
In regards to Game 3, Tortorella said the Rangers need to find a way to manufacture more time of possession. They survived without the territorial edge in Washington, but he knows they are straddling a very fine line by letting the Caps have the puck all the time.
"I thought we made some better decisions (through the neutral zone), but now coming up with loose pucks and winning more battles to keep the puck, that's your next step," Tortorella said. "I make no bones about it, we need to have the puck more. They are too dangerous of a hockey team to have the puck as much as they have. That's something we're going to work on and we have to be better at that (Monday)."
Over on the Capitals side, they know they have to play with more of an edge if they're going to avoid the dreaded 0-3 hole. That means going harder to the net and paying more of a price in their battle to get Henrik Lundqvist off his game even the slightest little bit.
Even Lundqvist hinted that he hasn't been flustered yet in this series and Rangers defenseman Derek Morris went as far as saying, "They're trying to get there, but maybe we're just outworking them a little bit."
"We played a good regular season game, not good enough to win in the playoffs," Washington coach Bruce Boudreau said of the Caps effort in Game 2. "You have to do more in the playoffs to succeed than you do in the regular season. We can't play at the same level as we did in the regular season. New York has ramped it up pretty good and we have to be able to meet that. We just have to do what we do a little bit better."
That also means finding a way to get more shots through the Rangers, who have sprawled out to block 50 shots through two games. The Caps could start faking some shots from the point to get the defenseman off-balance, but they're not sharing any secrets.
"You're going to see," Ovechkin said with his wide, gap-toothed grin. "You're going to see."
Contact Dan Rosen at firstname.lastname@example.org