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Tortorella says all the pressure is on Caps

Monday, 04.27.2009 / 3:00 PM / 2009 Playoffs Conference Quarterfinals

By Shawn P. Roarke - NHL.com Senior Managing Editor

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Rangers coach John Tortorella said all the pressure is on Washington in Tuesday's Game 7. And he has proof.

During a sometime contentious press briefing, Tortorella asked how many reporters thought the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal between his No. 7 seeded Rangers and second-seeded Washington Capitals would get to seven games, and a few media members raised their hands.

Then, he asked the 20 or so reporters if they thought his team had a chance of winning Tuesday night's Game 7 (7 p.m. ET, VERSUS, TSN, RDS) on the road after blowing a 3-1 advantage with back-to-back blowouts at the hands of the suddenly resurgent Capitals. 

Not a single hand went up.

"There you go," Tortorella said after the no-show of hands. "There is no pressure on us. We're going to go there and try to relax and compete in a Game 7 because everybody thinks we're done.

"It falls back on (Washington). They have the advantage because it is a home building and that's what they did this year. They deserve that seventh game, but it's funny what happens with the pressure."

While Tortorella is trying to lessen the load on his team, there is no denying that the pressure cuts in both directions -- something alternate captain Scott Gomez was forced to admit after Monday's practice.

"At this point, it's built up too much," said Gomez, one of the few players on the Rangers roster with Game 7 experience. "The pressure is on them, the pressure is on us. At this point, it doesn't matter. It's one game -- throw the other junk out. This is Game 7, there's pressure everywhere. But this is the fun time also. We all grow up dreaming about Game 7."

If the Rangers are to throw all the junk out, as Gomez suggested, it will be a busy 24 hours because they have been dealing with an avalanche of stuff in the past two games -- including the pulling of goalie Henrik Lundqvist in each of those games, the first time in his career he has been yanked in back-to-back contests.

Plus, Tortorella was suspended by the League for Game 6 after an altercation with a fan in Game 5 in Washington. Sean Avery was benched by Tortorella in Game 5 for undisciplined play and, now, Blair Betts is done for the series after suffering an upper-body injury on a controversial hit by Donald Brashear in Game 6.

"You just start from scratch; well not from scratch, because it's one game," defenseman Marc Staal said. "They're excited and we're excited to be playing in it. It should be a lot of fun. We're going in there to have our best game of the series and see what happens."

Tortorella laid the foundation Monday for the Rangers coming out at peak efficiency. There was little to no acknowledgement of the countless breakdowns in the past two games. There was no lecture delivered to Lundqvist.

And, Monday's practice, which lasted around a half hour, was a loosey-goosey affair that saw the team do some drills while using wrong-handed sticks and also featured a small-game scrimmage with the goals set up on opposing lines. There was a lot of hooting and hollering and stick banging. At one point, Avery playfully wrestled call-up Artem Anisimov to the ice before getting up with a huge smile.

"We need to relax," Tortorella said. "Wherever we've been or where we are now, we have a Game 7 to play. That's a great opportunity for some guys. Game 7, they're a blast. We need to relax a little bit. We were a little uptight at certain times, so today there is not too much talk Xs and Os wise. We just need to relax and go play."

Did the message get through? It appeared so, not only from the action on the ice, but the demeanor in the dressing room.

"It falls back on (Washington). They have the advantage because it is a home building and that's what they did this year. They deserve that seventh game, but it's funny what happens with the pressure."
-- John Tortorella

Brandon Dubinsky is a second-year pro who got his first playoff experience last season in New York's run to the second round. He has never played in a Game 7, but he showed no signs of being uptight.

"It's about every guy getting himself prepared and ready to go," Dubinsky said. "I haven't actually played in a Game 7, but I have played in a lot of Game 7s (in my mind). It's something you always think about. It's one game to move on or go home and we are ready for the challenge."

They may be ready, but are they capable of derailing a Capitals team that is clicking on all cylinders now and had out-scored the Rangers, 9-1, in the past two games before Staal and Ryan Callahan scored cosmetic goals in the third period of Game 6's 5-3 loss?

"No athlete, no matter the ebbs and flows of a series, no athlete goes into a Game 7 thinking they can't win," Tortorella said. "It's a great opportunity. We have the wrong people on the bus if we have to go in there with a big speech as far as getting ready to play. They will be ready to play. How it falls out, I have no idea, but we'll be there ready to compete."


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