After being befuddled by Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist through the first four games of this best-of-7 Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series, the Capitals have popped nine of their last 34 shots past the All-Star netminder.
As a result, the Rangers' offensive woes -- they scored two third-period goals Sunday when the game was out of hand -- are magnified. New York has scored only 10 goals in this series and now they can't seem to stop the Capitals from pouring it on either.
A Game 7 on Tuesday night (7 p.m. ET, VERSUS, TSN, RDS), one that a week ago looked improbable, will be the Rangers' last chance to figure out their offense and stop the confident Caps. New York averaged only 2.44 goals-per-game in the regular season and has scored just 1.67 in this series.
"We had some guys that were locked in and were ready to go and we had some other guys that wanted to test the water," Rangers interim assistant coach Jim Schoenfeld said after Sunday's 5-3 loss. "If you don't throw yourself into it fully, it's tough to win."
Both Schoenfeld on Sunday and coach John Tortorella after Game 5 on Friday night got on the Rangers' so-called top players for their lack of effectiveness in this series.
The six forwards the Rangers used on their top two lines Sunday -- Scott Gomez, Sean Avery, Nikolai Zherdev, Chris Drury, Markus Naslund and Nik Antropov -- have combined for 5 goals and 7 assists. Gomez has 3 goals and 2 assists, but Drury has only a goal, Avery just one assist and Zherdev has been held pointless.
Meanwhile, the Capitals' top-six forwards -- Alex Ovechkin, Sergei Fedorov, Viktor Kozlov, Nicklas Backstrom, Tomas Fleischmann and Alexander Semin -- have 10 goals and 16 assists.
"I think it's a double-whammy there," Schoenfeld said. "Big offensive guys have not gotten it going and what happens is that their part of the job falls on someone else. Now someone else has to do their job plus. There is so much we have to do defensively because the other guys aren't doing their job offensive.
"That is something that has been a problem in this series. If we don't recognize it, then Henrik has to pitch a shutout or a one-goal game and we have to win another squeaker."
The offensive discrepancy comes down mostly to execution. The Caps have been playing a simple game and converting on their chances, while the Rangers have been turning the puck over and missing on their rare opportunities.
For instance, a little over nine minutes into the second period Sunday, Zherdev had a wide open net to shoot at with his backhand after Capitals goalie Simeon Varlamov left a juicy rebound. Zherdev missed wide left by a good two feet.
Twelve seconds later, after rushing the puck down the ice, Kozlov scored.
"It seems like every mistake we have made they have capitalized on," Gomez said.
On the flip side, Mike Green told NHL.com, "We have felt ourselves out, felt our knack around the net, and sometimes it just takes time. It seems like we're making the right plays now and not trying to do it all ourselves."
The Rangers insist they are still confident, but to show it they have to have a good start Tuesday and get the first goal. The team that has scored first has won the last five games of this series.
"We have to have a good first 5-10 minutes and get pucks below their goal line. That's where we've had success -- when we get that first goal. They may tighten up a bit. The pressure is on them. They smoked us twice. Now they're going home. They're going to be saying it's over, it's their building. Clearly, we just have to be ready to play."
-- Chris Drury
Getting pucks below the goal line has been a major problem for the Rangers because they are too turnover-prone in the neutral zone. On Sunday, the turnovers backed up all the way into their defensive zone, too.
"(Sunday's) game there were a lot of turnovers and we got a lot of 2-on-1s, 3-on-1s and 3-on-2s," Backstrom said. "That helped us win the game."
Part of the Rangers' problem has also been the Capitals' effective defense. It has flown mostly under the radar, but the Capitals have played remarkable on the back end in the last five games. They have allowed only six goals with Varlamov in net.
"I think all six games they've been really good," Boudreau said of his defensemen. "They've been chastised all year long that it's our weak point, but I think, frankly so far, it's been our strength."
One that has added to the Rangers' season-long weakness.
Contact Dan Rosen at firstname.lastname@example.org