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Rangers face elimination in Game 5 against Capitals

by Mike G. Morreale /



Washington leads best-of-7 series 3-1

NEW YORK -- A moment of truth has arrived for the Presidents' Trophy-winning New York Rangers against the Washington Capitals in the Eastern Conference Second Round series.

New York must win three straight games or begin plans to empty lockers a lot sooner than many expected. The Rangers, who on nine occasions during the regular season won at least three straight, host the Capitals with their season on the line in Game 5 at Madison Square Garden on Friday.

"I think there's certainly a group of us in the room that knows how hard it is to get yourself back into this [series]," Rangers center Derek Stepan said. "At the same time, we can't focus on winning the series; we have to focus on winning Game 5 and that's all we can really do. That's one of the things we did well [in the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs], just focusing on winning one game at a time."

The Rangers are 1-17 in series they trailed 3-1, defeating the Pittsburgh Penguins in the second round last year.

"This is a different team, a different group, but the core is the same and has past experience in dealing with this type of situation," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. "I expect them to pass on their experience and leadership to the remainder of our group. The most important thing right now is Game 5 and our preparation. We're focused on coming up with a plan we can implement and share with our players. Hopefully we can execute and make [the Capitals] pay for their mistakes."

After finishing third in the NHL during the regular season at 3.02 goals per game, the Rangers have averaged 1.78 goals in nine playoff games. They have averaged 30.7 shots.

"When you do get looks, you need to bear down, but we have to do our best to not get frustrated with it," Stepan said. "Maybe it comes down to working harder to get on the inside and generating some more good looks. Maybe getting a fluky goal or one that bounces off the shin pad or something will open the floodgates."

In the first round, the Rangers were limited by Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury despite the fact Pittsburgh was without several injured players on defense. The Rangers won the series in five games.

Capitals goalie Braden Holtby has allowed five goals in four games. He's allowed 15 goals in 10 playoff games with a 1.48 goals-against average and .950 save percentage.

"Our players know we're going to have to beat a very good team on Friday in the Rangers," Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. "They're going to give us their best effort and we have to do the same. We have to keep the foot on the pedal and try and end the series. Players don't want to let it go on, but at the same time we know they're a good opponent."

Trotz said the Capitals have played well to this point, but a loss Friday could certainly change momentum.

"We want to take it a game at a time and win one more game and then push reset again," Trotz said. "We said at the start of the year we wanted to do something special, and the commitment level has been there since Day One. They've listened and paid attention and we made some good strides forward. Now we need to get the next win and that's going to be hard."

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