NEW YORK -- There was no space out there, barely any room in any of the would-be shooting lanes. The Rangers could have gotten frustrated; they could have tried to force the issue.
They didn't. It's partly why there were able to earn a 3-1 victory in Game 1 against Washington on Saturday at Madison Square Garden.
"Frustration is definitely not a word I'd use. It was just patience," said center Brad Richards, whose goal 8:30 into the third period gave the Rangers their 3-1 lead. "We expected it going in. We watched them play against Boston and we expected that."
"That" would be a grinding, defensive, shot-blocking game. The Rangers don't want risk opening up because Washington still has enough talent up front to burn them.
However, even Richards noted that the one thing the Rangers absolutely must do in Game 2 is get more pucks to the net. They had just 14 shots on goal and attempted 47. Washington blocked 15 shots and the Rangers missed the net on 18 more. There was a span of more than 11 minutes in the first period where the Rangers went without a shot on goal and had only one attempt at the net.
"We got some zone time and started to do some things there, but it's going to be tough to get shots through," Richards said. "You can see them blocking shots. They have no fear to go down and clog up the middle of the ice there. If there's one thing we need to do better it's we have to get more pucks on net."
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They'll certainly try to in Game 3 on Monday (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS), but Rangers coach John Tortorella said more shots will not come at the expense of the game plan.
"It's going to be a grind, and we're just going to play our game," Tortorella said. "We're not changing anything as far as how we go about our business. I liked our patience through the neutral zone and we found a way to get a couple of plays in the third period."
They did because they were opportunistic after getting only eight shots on goal through the first 40 minutes.
Rookie Chris Kreider found some space in the middle of the ice and blasted a shot past Braden Holtby from the top of the left circle for the go-ahead goal at the seven-minute mark. He then delivered a pass off the left-wing wall to Richards, who skated in alone on Holtby and beat him from the left post 90 seconds later.
Kreider's goal happened after a poor line change by the Capitals. Richards scored because two guys closed in on Kreider, leaving the Rangers' center alone.
"We knew if we could keep pressure that hopefully we'll get a chance and something will go in," Richards said. "There's no panic."
Of course, it's easy to stay patience when you're also not giving up much. The Capitals had just 18 shots on goal, including only five in the third period, when the Rangers finally took charge. The Rangers matched Washington with 15 blocked shots. The Capitals also missed the net 16 times.
"I think this is the way we are going to have to play," goalie Henrik Lundqvist said. "It may not be the most fun to watch sometimes, but the most important thing for us is to win."
Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl