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Rangers look for way around Caps' shot blockers

by Dan Rosen

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Rangers captain Ryan Callahan said shooting directly at the net isn't always the answer against a team like the Capitals, a team that is so good at getting in shooting lanes and blocking shots.

Michael Del Zotto talked about the need to shoot quicker, and Marian Gaborik said a good play might just be banking the puck off the boards to hope for something ugly in front of the net.

As for Brad Richards, well he just said the Rangers have to do more.

After four games against Washington the Rangers are locked in a 2-2 series, and they're still trying to figure out how to get pucks to the net against the Capitals, who are blocking an average of 26.25 shots per game in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

"It's hard to play against a team like that," Callahan said Sunday. "They're really good in the defensive zone. They're similar to us in our style the way we block shots and collapse. The big thing is frustration, you can't let that creep in. You've just got to keep banging away, keep playing. We're not frustrated in here. We realize what we have to do. We just have to go out there and do it."

OK, so what do they have to do starting with Game 5 Monday at Madison Square Garden (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC, RDS)?


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"You have to realize when to shoot it and when not to," Callahan added. "If there is a guy in the lane maybe you've got to take a look and shoot it to the side of the net. We have to throw it to the net and get bodies there. That's the only way we're going to have success."

Ah yes, pucks to the net, bodies to the net, crashing the crease -- the age-old formula for scoring goals in the playoffs.

Have the Rangers done enough of that?

Not really, noted Richards, who doesn't think Capitals rookie goalie Braden Holtby has had to do all that much in the series to date.

In the series, Holtby has faced an average of 27.75 shots per game, but that number is higher due to the triple OT Game 3. Holtby has faced an average of 22.25 shots per game in regulation. In Games 2 and 4, both Washington wins, he faced a combined 34 shots on goal while the Capitals blocked a combined 50 shots.

Washington won both games by identical 3-2 scores.

"If you looked and had 25 chances a night, 40 shots a night, maybe you start getting frustrated. I don't think we've done that," Richards said. "I don't think he's (Holtby) had to stand on his head too often. We're more worried about what we have to do. Get more at him and then see where it goes from there."

The Capitals have blocked 39 percent of the Rangers shot attempts in the series (105 blocks on 271 attempts). Save for a few, the 111 shots that have gotten through to Holtby haven't been all that dangerous.

"It's not going to be like the other series, when you have three or four 2-on-1s a period," Gaborik said. "That's not going to happen. It's not going to open up."

The Rangers have actually scored more goals than Washington through four games (9-8), but when afforded the chance to take a 3-1 lead in the series Saturday at Verizon Center they managed to get only 20 shots on goal. The Capitals blocked 26 shots.

"We had the puck a lot (in Game 4), but as far as getting good, quality scoring chances, I don't think we developed enough," Rangers coach John Tortorella said.

So, it comes back to how can the Rangers get more pucks to the blue paint in Game 5? The Capitals, after all, are not only blocking shots from the point, but they're also collapsing all five skaters into the middle?

"Before you get the puck you have to think shot, but when there is a guy in front of you you have to shoot around him, not shoot in his pads," Gaborik said. "If there is a chance to shoot it we want to shoot it quick, but if not we have to bank it off the boards or put it behind the net and try to get the puck in front with bodies in front. Quick, bad angle shots, shots from the goal line that can get him surprised and then we can have guys driving at the net."

Tortorella admitted his team has "at times" been guilty of shooting into the pads of the Capitals shot blockers.

"I'm not going to have a blanket statement that way," Tortorella said. "There are times when you can do something else. It's a matter of seeing the ice."

Seeing it in quickly, actually.

Del Zotto said the Capitals are excellent at having their centers fill the middle of the ice and their defensemen getting in front of shots as well. He said that's what makes it so difficult to get shots through on Holtby.

To counter that, the second-year defenseman said the Rangers have to be quicker with their passes and shots.

"Any time the puck is spread from low to high and shooting it right away, they won't be in the lane and that's when we'll get our chances," Del Zotto said.

However they want to go about it, the Rangers know they need more scoring chances in Game 5. It could be the difference in taking a 3-2 series lead.

"We've just gotta do more," Richards said. "Whatever it is, we just gotta do more."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

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