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Caps cut Rangers series lead to 2-1 with shutout

Tuesday, 04.21.2009 / 4:11 AM / News

Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) -John Tortorella returned from the nation's capital with two big playoff wins in his pocket and a stern message for his upstart New York Rangers.

Just because the seventh-seeded Rangers had the upper hand on the Southeast Division-champion Washington Capitals, in no way were they playing perfect hockey. Tortorella warned that if they didn't control the puck a lot more on home ice, this Eastern Conference playoff series could change quickly.

Alex Ovechkin and his Capitals linemates turned Tortorella into a prophet.

"To create offense, you need to be sound defensively and we weren't," Tortorella said after the Capitals beat the Rangers 4-0 in Game 3 on Monday night. "We weren't even close. It was just an old-fashioned spanking. So we need to take our medicine here and get back to work and try to figure some things out."

Instead of working on a sweep Wednesday night in Game 4, the Rangers will need to be at their best to avoid going back to D.C. tied 2-2 and handing home-ice advantage back to the favored Capitals.

Ovechkin, the regular-season leader with 56 goals, still doesn't have one in this series. But he cut down on his high shot total and worked on getting pucks to his talented linemates Alexander Semin and Nicklas Backstrom.

The plan worked.

Semin scored twice in the first period, off assists by Ovechkin, and Backstrom helped set up three goals. It was quite a turnaround for the Capitals, who were beaten 1-0 by Henrik Lundqvist and the Rangers on Saturday in Game 2.

Brooks Laich and former Rangers defenseman Tom Poti added power-play goals to finish off New York.

"He's a great goalie. He's big out there," Backstrom said of Lundqvist, who made 36 saves Monday. "It's kind of a big thing for us to score early on him."

What will be big for the Rangers is trying to figure out 20-year-old goalie Simeon Varlamov, who's quickly transforming from risky starter to difference-maker.

Varlamov was the surprise replacement for struggling starter Jose Theodore, who stopped only 17 of 21 shots in the 4-3 series-opening loss. Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau turned to Varlamov for Game 2, and since then the young netminder - with only six previous games of NHL experience - has allowed just one goal on 57 shots.

"Let's not forget even though he's 20 years old, he's played in the finals of the Russian elite league, which to him is probably like our Stanley Cup," Boudreau said. "The pressure is just as much there, and then he's played in the world championship. And the fact that he doesn't understand a word we're saying probably really helps him."

He also got a taste of Sean Avery's antics, annoyed enough to shove his goalie stick between the Rangers agitator's legs in the crease late in Monday's win. Avery went back at him and then dealt with big defenseman John Erskine, who got Avery out of the game with his fourth penalty of the night and a misconduct.

"I thought he was trying to stir it up. But he's trying to stir it up with a guy (Varlamov) that doesn't know what he's talking about," Boudreau said. "He did his job. That's what Sean does, standing in front of the goalie all night long. I thought he went over the line a couple of times and got called for it.

"That's what he's good at. He's got a lot of courage."

The Rangers' biggest worries now are shutting down the awakening Capitals, solving a goalie they know little about, and the status of banged-up captain Chris Drury, who played only 1:34 in the third period as he fights what is believed to be a hand or wrist injury.

Tortorella acknowledged he's concerned about Drury's condition.

"I am healthy enough to dress," said Drury, who sat out the series opener. "I am healthy enough to be in the lineup, so I have to try to help the team. I will continue to do that."

At Montreal, Michael Ryder scored late in the second period against his former team and Tim Thomas made 23 saves to lead the Bruins to a commanding lead in their first-round playoff series.

Phil Kessel, Shawn Thornton and Chuck Kobasew also scored for Boston, which increased its lead in the Eastern quarterfinal series to 3-0 despite the absence of left wing Milan Lucic, who sat out a one-game league suspension.

Ryder, a healthy scratch for all but four of Montreal's 12 playoffs games last season, put Boston ahead 17:21 into the second period.

Chris Higgins and Yannick Weber scored for Montreal, which has lost seven in a row, including its last four games of the regular season.

At Calgary, Alberta, David Moss scored twice, and Rene Bourque and Eric Nystrom also scored for the Flames, who trail 2-1 in the best-of-seven Western quarterfinal series.

Curtis Glencross had a pair of assists for Calgary, which won for the first time in seven meetings with Chicago - four in the regular season and three in the playoffs. The Flames have never won a playoff series they've opened 0-2.

Chicago's Martin Havlat scored late in the third period for his third goal.

Quote of the Day

I downplayed the first one because I thought it's just a hockey game. We just want to win the game; it's against our rival and we want the two points. I downplayed it, but now having gone through the first one I look back and say, 'Geez, that was really cool.' I think as I've grown a bit older I've got a lot more appreciation for what we're allowed to do every day.

— Capitals forward Brooks Laich on the 2015 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic, the second one of his career after 2011 in Pittsburgh