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Capitals limiting Rangers offense with blocked shots

by Mike G. Morreale /

NEW YORK -- The New York Rangers are discovering the Washington Capitals to be a much more well-balanced and determined group in the Stanley Cup Playoffs than the one they faced during the regular season.

The Rangers won three of four games against the Capitals in the regular season but find themselves trailing their best-of-7 Eastern Conference Second Round series 3-1 entering Game 5 on Friday at Madison Square Garden (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).

Rangers center Dominic Moore said the Capitals are committed to coming to the aide of goaltender Braden Holtby whenever possible. The Capitals have 86 blocked shots in four games against the Rangers, including 52 in two victories at Verizon Center.

The Rangers have 46 blocked shots.

"They are a little bit more pronounced in the philosophy of how they've caving up in front of Holtby, and they've done a good job of that," Rangers forward Dominic Moore said. "They've waited for their opportunities and they've capitalized on them, so they've been pretty consistent with it in the [Stanley Cup Playoffs]."

The Capitals lead playoff teams with 118 blocked shots through 11 games. When the shots do find their way to Holtby he has a 1.48 goals-against average and .950 save percentage. Even with all those blocked shots, he has faced the most shots of any goalie in the playoffs (302).

Rangers center Derek Stepan said the Capitals have played responsibly in front of their goalie and it's making a difference.

"They do a good job getting in the shot lanes; maybe we need to shoot quicker and, at times, focus on getting a puck by [a shot block attempt]," Stepan said. "It all comes down to continuing to work hard and continuing to get looks. Hopefully we can find a way to get more by them and eventually get one by Holtby."

Moore said the Capitals are no different than any team alive in the playoffs.

"Every team is trying to block shots and every team is trying to figure out how to get shots through," Moore said. "They're doing a particularly good job of it in this series so far and we're trying to do things to figure it out. We'll keep trying, and hopefully figure it out [in Game 5]."

Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said they have played well despite the effort the Capitals have exhibited in front of their goaltender.

"They've been able to make us pay for a couple of mistakes, a couple of turnovers," Vigneault said. "We haven't been able to do the same. This is a game of mistakes and you've got to be able to score goals and they've made quite a few turnovers that we were able to force but weren't able to make them pay.

"As much as I think our game has been good, at the end of the day we're down 3-1 and we've got to find a way to get it better."

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