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Rangers aren't talking sweep -- yet

by Dan Rosen
WASHINGTON -- The New York Rangers aren't thinking sweep … yet.

But win Game 3 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series in Madison Square Garden on Monday night and you can be assured that every Ranger fan will be looking to bring a broom to the old building on Wednesday.

The Rangers hold a 2-0 lead in the best-of-7 series against the Washington Capitals by virtue of winning twice on the road. Only nine times since the NHL went to the 1 vs. 8 conference format in 1994 has a team that lost the first two games at home come back to win the series.

"Listen, we have two wins and we're playing against a very good hockey club," Rangers coach John Tortorella said following Saturday's 1-0 victory at Verizon Center. "We can not lose our edge as far as what we have to do because the series can get turned around real quickly."

The Capitals definitely think they have the firepower to do just that, but they have yet to solve Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist or figure out a way to get enough traffic in front of the All-Star goalie.

Alex Ovechkin, who had a League-best 56 goals in the regular season, has been shut out so far in this series despite sending a total of 44 shots toward the net (19 have gone on goal).

"We're trying to get there (the front of the net)," Caps coach Bruce Boudreau said. "Their defense is doing a heck of a job blocking us out. We talk about getting to the front of the net and going for rebounds, but when we're going for rebounds he's kicking them by us. I thought we tried like heck to get there."

Sunday brings a new day of storylines from this compelling series as the Rangers return home to practice at the Madison Square Garden Training Center in Greenburgh, N.Y. at 3 p.m. while the Caps skate at the Kettler Capitals Iceplex at 11 a.m. before flying to New York.

Although Boudreau wouldn't say who he plans to start in net for Game 3, you'd have to think that 20-year-old Russian rookie Simeon Varlamov played well enough in a surprising Game 2 start to deserve the nod again.

Varlamov stopped 23 of 24 shots. The only one he didn't get was a redirection by Ryan Callahan of a Markus Naslund pass on a 2-on-1 that would have required a sparkling glove save.

"I thought he played well," Boudreau said. "I didn't think he had a chance on the first goal and then he made a real good save about three minutes after that. I was very happy with his game."

The Rangers are obviously happy with Lundqvist's game. He made 35 saves Saturday for his fourth career postseason shutout. The only shot that beat him, an Ovechkin snapper from between the circles with 6:01 left in regulation, rang off the crossbar and into the mesh.

Ovechkin muttered something and started gazing at the rafters after the puck left the playing surface. He couldn't believe he missed.

"It's good to hear him swear a lot out there," Lundqvist said. "It's a good sign."

"That kind of chance you have to use," Ovechkin said. "You can say he's a great goalie, but we're good players, too, and we have to score goals. It's simple."

The Rangers need to keep Ovechkin frustrated -- which means they need to keep playing the way they have been playing.

For the most part they have been smart with the puck and haven't allowed the Capitals to get in Lundqvist's kitchen. Although their scoring chances are limited because of the Capitals' territorial advantage, they have done a good job of cashing in.

"It's just trying to handle surges, certain momentum swings in the game," Tortorella said. "Coaches have to understand that, too. We don't want to rattle boys on the bench when there may be a surge going against you. It's just a matter of staying within yourself. We've done a good job of staying within ourselves."

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