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Capitals v Rangers - 2011 Stanley Cup Conference Quarterfinals

Capitals happy for rest, but stress staying focused

Corey Masisak - Staff Writer

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Given how the past few seasons have ended, the Washington Capitals rightfully were a happy bunch after dispatching the New York Rangers in five games to advance to the second round of the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs and earn several days without a postseason contest to play.

Now the focus shifts forward, and the quest for this to be the most successful season in Bruce Boudreau's four-year tenure begins in earnest. Players often talk about surviving the unpredictable nature of the NHL's opening playoff round, but that alone won't make this a successful campaign for the Capitals.

"It is good, but on the other hand we have to stay focused," Matt Bradley said Monday after an optional practice at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. "We won in the first round -- big deal. We're happy we did that, but that was never our goal."

Neuvirth's playoff success continues with Caps

Corey Masisak - Staff Writer

WASHINGTON -- Michal Neuvirth has defeated an impressive list of goaltenders in postseason series in his brief professional career, but Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers moves to the top of the list.

Neuvirth made 26 saves Saturday as the Washington Capitals closed out the Rangers in five games in this Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series. It was the ninth postseason series Neuvirth has been a No. 1 goaltender for since leaving junior hockey and he's now 9-for-9.

"He's a great goalie," Caps defenseman John Carlson said. "I thought from Day One he was a great goalie. He just steps his game up every time he needs to. He's just one of those big-save goalies. When the momentum is going the other way he makes a big stop and we get it back. He's got a knack for the playoffs."

Ovechkin switches wings to score winning goal

Corey Masisak - Staff Writer

WASHINGTON -- Alex Ovechkin has been hockey's best left wing since he entered the NHL six years ago. Is it possible he could become the best right wing as well?

Ovechkin spent Game 5 of the Washington Capitals' Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series on the opposite side of center Nicklas Backstrom and the result was impressive. His highlight-reel goal proved to be the game-winning tally in Washington's series-clinching 3-1 victory Saturday afternoon at Verizon Center.

"I thought it was his best game of the series easily -- and I mean complete," Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said. "In the other games he's had flashes of brilliance and he's been not so visible. I thought he was very visible on the ice and doing the right things. I thought his goal was spectacular."

Lack of firepower dooms Rangers

Dave Lozo - Staff Writer

WASHINGTON -- The first 20 seconds of Game 5 was a microcosm of the entire Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series for the New York Rangers.

Sean Avery, Brian Boyle and Brandon Prust -- by the far the most consistent line for the New York Rangers during the series -- applied pressure to the Capitals around the net of goaltender Michal Neuvirth. It looked like the Rangers were going to get a monumental first goal after Neuvirth fell to the ice, but Boyle's wraparound try was denied.

The Capitals controlled the next 10 minutes of the game, getting a goal from Mike Green at 5:59 and using that momentum to cruise to a 3-1 victory at Verizon Center that wrapped the series.

Afterward, Boyle lamented how close the Rangers came to getting the perfect start.

Resiliency allows Carlson to shoulder heavy load

Corey Masisak - Staff Writer

ARLINGTON, Va. -- There are many reasons why John Carlson is one of the best young defensemen in the NHL and should have a long and successful career in front of him.

While he possesses such a tantalizing grasp of a wide array of skills, one of his greatest assets at this early stage of his career has been his resiliency -- something not often associated with 21-year-olds at his position.

Carlson struggled at times for the Washington Capitals during a Game 3 loss to the New York Rangers in their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series. He had a couple of lapses in the opening 40 minutes of Game 4 as well.

New Caps hope to help put team's past to bed

Corey Masisak - Staff Writer

"Everybody goes through certain things in their career. Everybody always looks back. For this team, we can't look back. We've got to look forward and we've got to get ready for tomorrow and put the past behind us." -- Jason Arnott

ARLINGTON, Va. -- After winning Game 4 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal-round series against the New York Rangers, many of the questions directed at members of the Washington Capitals the past two days have been about the past.

The Capitals have a 3-1 lead in the series, and the franchise has a long and sordid history when it comes to holding a two-game lead in the postseason. A lot of the bad memories come from the 1980s and 1990s, but Washington has also held a two-game lead in each of the past two postseason series it was a part of (2-0 on Pittsburgh in 2009, 3-1 on Montreal in 2010) and has failed to advance.

Facing elimination won't shake Rangers' confidence

Dave Lozo - Staff Writer

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- John Tortorella wasn't all that pleased earlier in the week about having two days off between games, but following a gut-wrenching, double-overtime loss in Game 4 on Wednesday, he was singing a different tune Friday.

"I'll be honest with you -- it took me until yesterday afternoon to swallow the loss," Tortorella said. "That was a tough one. That was one of the tougher ones I lived through. But once you swallow it, you puke it out."

For Rangers to rally, power play must revive

Dave Lozo - Staff Writer

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- A common thread among the three No. 8 seeds to win their first-round series since 2006 was a power play working at a high level:

* The Montreal Canadiens went 6-for-30 (20 percent) last year in their seven-game upset of the Washington Capitals. They scored a power-play goal in every game except Game 5.

Wideman happy to be out of hospital, skating

Corey Masisak - Staff Writer

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Count teammate Jason Chimera among the people who were surprised when what appeared to be an injury from a simple collision for Dennis Wideman in late March turned into a much more serious problem in the hours and days that followed.

Wideman left the Washington Capitals game March 29 after colliding with Carolina Hurricanes forward Tuomo Ruutu with a leg injury. He ended up spending nearly two weeks in a local hospital with a hematoma and compartment syndrome.

"We didn't know [how severe it was], either," Chimera said. "It was one of those things where he had a charley horse, and then you find out he's in the hospital and you're kind of taken back. It's good to see him skating. He's way ahead of schedule. As a hockey player, [the hospital is] not a place you want to be, that's for sure."

Wideman skated before practice Thursday at Kettler Capitals Iceplex in a team-issue track suit -- something he's been doing with regularity for the past two weeks. When he might return to the lineup remains in question.

Four things Rangers need to erase 3-1 deficit

Dave Lozo - Staff Writer

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Brandon Dubinsky summarized the situation of the Rangers perfectly Thursday.
"Our backs are against the wall," he said.

The Rangers were 20 minutes from sending their best-of-7 Eastern Conference quarterfinal-round series back to Washington deadlocked at 2-2, but the top-seeded Capitals scored three times in third period to force overtime and later won on a Jason Chimera goal in the second overtime to take a 3-1 series lead and push the eighth-seeded Rangers to the brink of elimination.

The first four games of the series have featured three one-goal games and two overtime contests, both won by the Capitals. In a series this close, the Rangers could easily be the team with the 3-1 lead heading into Saturday's Game 5 (3 p.m., NBC, TSN, RDS).

If they want to win three straight and pull the upset, these are four things that must happen:
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