RANGERS at CAPITALS
TV: NBCSN, SN, TVA Sports 2
Washington leads best-of-7 series 2-1
WASHINGTON -- The Washington Capitals chased the Eastern Conference First Round series for the first five games against the New York Islanders, trailing 1-0 and 2-1 before winning three of the final four games to advance in seven.
That availability to fight back should serve as a vital lesson for the Capitals heading into Game 4 of the best-of-7 Eastern Conference Second Round against the New York Rangers on Wednesday at Verizon Center.
The Rangers finished first in the NHL and are considered the favorite to represent the Eastern Conference in the Stanley Cup Final for a second-straight season. If any team can overcome a series deficit, it is the Rangers, who trailed the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-1 last year before advancing out of the second round.
The Capitals know they will have to be better than they were in the first three games, each decided by one goal. The Capitals won Game 3 on Monday, 1-0, on a bank-shot goal by center Jay Beagle midway through the second period.
The Capitals were outshot 30-22 and outplayed for significant stretches, especially at the start of the first and second periods. A quicker start is on the wish list of coach Barry Trotz.
"[The players] have to fix it," he said. "It's up to them. It's up to them to be mentally ready. I think I could give a real good motivational speech and all that, but it comes down to the individual athlete to be ready, understand that they're playing a quick-start team. And we have to be better in the first [period].
"You don't win the games in the first, but you can lose them in the first. I think as the game goes on we've been better and better, all the time. That's been our M.O. all year. So we just need to fix our guys in the first, and if we do that, I think the rest of the game falls into place."
In Game 2, the Rangers scored in the first minute and dictated the game, never relinquishing the lead in a 3-2 victory.
Washington defenseman Mike Green said he doesn't want to see the Capitals fighting to stay even in Game 4. He wants them to dictate the pace in front of the amped-up crowd, to press for the advantage in an attempt to put a dangerous team on the brink of elimination.
"I think we expect a similar game to Game 2," Green said after an optional practice Tuesday. "They're a good team and they come out hard, especially in the first period. I thought that they were good in the first [period] last game, and in that sense we've got to be better in our first period. We do expect them to come out strong and make a point to start our game. We've got to make sure to make a point to try to slow them down.
"It's mental preparation, really. I think that we've got to come out with the right mind frame. At times it takes us maybe 15 to 20 minutes to gather our rhythm and if we can have that rhythm right off the bat and go strong, we'll make more of an impact in that first period. But it's got to be a mind frame right from the drop of the puck."
The Rangers' goal is to get the bounces going their way and have some tangible results for the extended zone-play advantage it has achieved through the first 180 minutes. They have four goals in the series, a rate of offense that is not sustainable toward emerging victorious, even with Henrik Lundqvist in their goal.
"Players have to find ways to contribute," New York coach Alain Vigneault said. "It is tight hockey. On different nights you get different guys that are difference-makers. When we won that Game 2, [Derek Stepan's] line was the difference-maker in that game. I think [Derick Brassard's] line with [Rick] Nash and [Martin St. Louis] are close to being difference-makers. They are playing the right way both offensively and defensively. You have to stick with the process and believe in the process and think that in these tight games, sooner or later, it is going to pay off."