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Rangers seek breakthrough against Holtby, Capitals

by Shawn Roarke /

WASHINGTON -- The New York Rangers are desperate for goals.

In three games against the Washington Capitals in the Eastern Conference Second Round, the Rangers have four goals. In eight postseason games, they have averaged 1.88 goals per game, second-lowest among the 16 teams that qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

It is a frustrating turn of events for the Rangers, who had little trouble scoring during the regular season; their 248 goals were the third-most in the NHL.

Usually when a team struggles for goals, it looks to the power play for solutions. But for the Rangers, the man-advantage has not been helpful, especially against the Capitals.

The Rangers have one power-play goal in eight attempts in the series. It came in their Game 2 win at Madison Square Garden. They had two power plays in Game 3 on Monday but generated little on either opportunity against a Capitals penalty kill that is the best in the playoffs, having killed 21 of 22 shorthanded situations.

New York trails the best-of-7 series 2-1. A loss Wednesday in Game 4 (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVA Sports 2) would put them on the brink of elimination. A victory returns home-ice advantage to the Rangers.

Though the strong play of goalie Braden Holtby has helped with the Capitals' penalty-kill success, they have other things going for them.

"They make their reads, they have their tendencies," Rangers forward Martin St. Louis said. "They block their shots and their goaltender is playing well. Usually on the penalty kill your goalie is the best player and he's been good.

"We're going to try to make it harder on them. We know their tendencies and they know our tendencies and it is a little bit of a chess match there. Sometimes you just have to simplify it a bit there, throw pucks on net and get a second or third opportunity from it. We just have to find that lane and keep believing that we can get the job done."

If it sounds like the penalty kill is mirroring what the Capitals have done at even strength, it's because it is, Rangers center Derek Stepan said.

"I think they are doing a lot of the same things they do 5-on-5," he said. "They are blocking shots. When we do finally get a breakdown, one of their defensemen makes a big play. And when we do finally get a look, Holtby's been there to make a big save."

Stepan said the Rangers need to get more bodies to the front of the net and take away Holtby's line of vision. But he cautions the effort needs to be done systematically.

"It's positioning. We want to get guys there but we can't have too many guys there," Stepan said. "Then it is hard for the shooter to get the puck through or the rebound might go to a different spot. Talking about this side of it is really difficult because it is easy to say it now, but you have to be able to read and react. And sometimes you just have to work hard and get that ugly one."

Here are the projected lineups:


Rick Nash - Derick Brassard - Martin St. Louis

Chris Kreider - Derek Stepan - Jesper Fast

Carl Hagelin - Kevin Hayes - J.T. Miller

James Sheppard- Dominic Moore- Tanner Glass

Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi

Marc Staal- Kevin Klein

Keith Yandle- Dan Boyle

Henrik Lundqvist

Cam Talbot

Scratched: Ryan Bourque, Matt Hunwick, Chris Summers

Injured: Mats Zuccarello (upper body)


Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - Joel Ward

Marcus Johansson - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Jason Chimera

Andre Burakovsky - Jay Beagle - Troy Brouwer

Curtis Glencross - Brooks Laich - Tom Wilson

Brooks Orpik - John Carlson

Matt Niskanen - Karl Alzner

Mike Green - Tim Gleason

Braden Holtby

Justin Peters

Scratched: Michael Latta

Injured: Eric Fehr (upper body), John Erskine (neck surgery), Dmitry Orlov (wrist)

Status report: Zuccarello did not make the trip. He is day-to-day because of an upper-body injury.

Who's hot: Lundqvist has allowed five goals in the series; he has 78 saves on 83 shots. In the playoffs, he is 5-3 with a 1.59 goals-against average and .940 save percentage.

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