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Rangers vs Capitals - 2012 Stanley Cup Conference Semifinals

Mistakes prove costly for Rangers in Game 2

Dave Lozo - Staff Writer

NEW YORK -- When the Rangers lose, it rarely has anything to do with a bevy of gaffes. The team rose to the top of the Eastern Conference this season on the strength of playing mistake-free hockey, "the right way," as coach John Tortorella calls it.

On Monday night at Madison Square Garden, the Washington Capitals made the Rangers pay for doing things the wrong way.

The seventh-seeded Caps won Game 2 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal series with the Rangers 3-2, scoring all three goals directly off uncharacteristic errors, evening the best-of-seven series at 1-1.

"Can't give things for free," Tortorella said. "We gave away too many things for free tonight."

Rangers' Stepan has found his game

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Rangers coach John Tortorella wasn't sending a message to center Derek Stepan. Coaches don't send messages in the playoffs.

"It's about putting people on the ice that you think are going to help you win that particular game," Tortorella said Sunday.

Stepan's play in Games 1 and 2 against Ottawa wasn't bad enough to warrant a complete benching, but it wasn't good enough to convince Tortorella to keep him in the top-six. Tortorella demoted Stepan to the fourth line in both Games 3 and 4 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.

"I wasn't performing and there were other guys playing better," Stepan told

Even if it wasn't a message, Stepan took note of where he was in the lineup, and where he was headed if he continued to underperform. The next step was the press box, or worse, the offseason.

Stepan wasn't about to be embarrassed by either. He responded, and over the past four games Stepan has arguably been the Rangers best forward, even with the emergence of college sensation Chris Kreider.

Caps looking to ratchet up the intensity

Dave Lozo - Staff Writer

NEW YORK -- The intensity of the Stanley Cup Playoffs is hard to miss. It's so prevalent, in fact, that when it disappears, it's easy to notice.

That lack of intensity caught the eye of several Capitals during their 3-1 loss in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal series Saturday afternoon at Madison Square Garden. Brooks Laich, one of the unquestioned leaders of the team and a prominent voice in the locker room, spoke about the attitude of the team following practice Sunday morning.

"It's an intense time of year and we're here to win," Laich said. "It takes so much to win that every little thing matters. If there's things I think we can be doing better, then I'm going to try to help to do that, try to find a way to get the most out of our guys. It's something we'll address in the room, and I don't care to share much more than that."

Linemate Troy Brouwer, who won a Stanley Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2010, delved a little deeper into the situation.

"We've been a pretty loose team all year long," Brouwer said. "You can see it even during the morning skate before Game 7 (against the Boston Bruins in the first round), we were having fun and joking around. I think that's a lot of our personality as a team, but at the same time, you have to make sure you're tight. You have to make sure you're making crisp passes and being sharp. I think we were a little bit nonchalant.

Rangers make it a long day for Ovechkin

Corey Masisak - Staff Writer

NEW YORK -- Alex Ovechkin is one of the most dynamic players in hockey. He commands attention from top defensive players every time he steps on the ice. For seven games in the first round of the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs, he battled with Boston’s Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg, exchanging huge body blows with each while trying to find space to produce offense.

Alex Ovechkin
Left Wing - WSH
GOALS: 2 | ASST: 3 | PTS: 5
SOG: 29 | +/-: -1
Ovechkin isn’t likely to face the same physical warfare in the second round against the New York Rangers, but Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh were the best defensive pairing in hockey at neutralizing tough competition this season.

For Game 1 of this series at Madison Square Garden, focused on Ovechkin, how Washington coach Dale Hunter tried to get him ice time away from Girardi and McDonagh, and how the impressive duo was able to keep the Caps' superstar in check during a 3-1 victory for the Rangers.

Rangers plan to stay with patient, low-risk style

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

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.

Brad Richards
Center - NYR
GOALS: 3 | ASST: 3 | PTS: 6
SOG: 32 | +/-: -1
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.

Rookie Chris Kreider making it look easy

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

NEW YORK -- Rangers coach John Tortorella talked to his team about Chris Kreider before the 20-year-old college star arrived in town from Boston with the ink barely dry on his entry-level contract. Tortorella wanted to make sure everyone in the dressing room understood what Kreider might be feeling and how strange and difficult of a situation it was for him to be walking into.

"It's a hard situation for a kid," Tortorella said.

Three weeks later, Kreider is making everything look easy, his teammates absolutely love him, and the 18,200 blue-clad fans at Madison Square Garden are chanting his name.

Hunter helped trio of Rangers reach NHL

Ben Raby - Correspondent

ARLINGTON, Va. – Dan Girardi was an undrafted and over-aged junior defenseman playing for his third team in the Ontario Hockey League when he first got to know Dale Hunter.

At the time it may have been hard to imagine Girardi someday becoming an all-star defenseman in the NHL, but being traded to Hunter's London Knights during the 2004-05 season proved to be a tremendous stepping stone in his development.

Five months after joining one of the best junior teams in Canadian Hockey League history, the 21-year-old found himself matched against a 17-year-old phenom and the projected No. 1 pick in the forthcoming NHL Draft, in a best-of-one national championship.

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