New York Rangers vs. Washington Capitals, 7:30 PM at the Verizon Center
Game Three, Eastern Conference Semifinals (Series tied 1-1)
Where To Watch: NBC Sports Network
Where To Listen: 1050 ESPN Radio, and newyorkrangers.com
Live In-Game Chat: 7:15 PM on BlueshirtsUnited.com
After surrendering home-ice advantage by losing Game 2 to the Capitals 3-2, the Rangers must now win at least once on the road in this series in order to advance to the next round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. They are in a similar situation as in their first round series where they were even 1-1 after playing the first two games at The Garden against the Ottawa Senators, and then went out and rode a 39-save performance by Henrik Lundqvist to a 2-0 victory in Game 3 up in Ottawa. The Rangers were 2-1 on the road in the opening round of the playoffs, and are extremely comfortable playing on enemy ice---where they have posted a winning record in each of the last three regular seasons. Washington's Verizon Center certainly can be an intimidating arena for visiting teams, though---with their famed Sea of Red quite the spectacle. In last year's playoffs the Capitals won all three games of their series with the Rangers played at the Verizon Center, though so far in the 2012 post-season, the Caps have dropepd two of three games on home ice (to the Boston Bruins). More important to the Rangers then where the game is played is how it is played. The Rangers will want to cut down on their physical and mental mistakes and be more disciplined when it comes to taking penalties. The players and coaches believe Game 2 was lost due to tehse factors and do not want a repeat in Game 3 against a Capitals squad that will playing with full confidence and energy returning to their home building for the first time in more than a week. While Washington remians healthy heading into Game 3, the Rangers will remain without Brandon Dubinsky, who has an unspecified injury and is not skating at present. Brian Boyle, who returned from a concussion to play in Game 2, is expected to be in the lineup once again for the Rangers.
Rangers-Marian Gaborik: Though Gaborik had a gorgeous assist on Brad Richards' goal in Game 2, the Slovak sniper must regain his edge offensively for a Rangers team that is hungering for goals. Gaborik scored 41 goals in the regular season, but has just one in the post-season---and none in the past eight games. He has contributed---Gaborik's four assists are tied for the team playoff lead and his five points rank second---but Gaborik needs to find the back of the net and one here in Game 3 on the road would go a long way both for him and the team.
Capitals-Alex Ovechkin: Deployed in a different manner by head coach Dale Hunter, Ovechkin is still a lethal weapon for the Capitals, as was evidenced by his seven shots and game-winning goal despite playing fewer than 14 minutes in Game 3. Even with limited ice-time Ovechkin is the one player for either team on the ice who can singlehandedly change the course of the game, and the Rangers can not forget that for a single second.
"They're not afraid to block shots and they clog the (shooting) lanes, and that type of defending from the blueline in is similar to us. So we know what that's about. We just need to keep throwing pucks to the net and creating traffic, bang away at rebounds in the crease, things like that. But a little play becomes a big one if you are not careful in your end zone, too, against these guys."-Marc Staal
This is the seventh all-time playoff series between the Rangers and the Capitals, and through 36 games played in total so far the difference between the two is extremely minimal. The Caps hold a 20-16 all-time record vs. the Rangers in the post-season, buoyed by last year's 4-1 series win.
Since the lockout ended the Rangers have played eight Game Threes in the playoffs, so far. In those eight contests the Rangers have posted a 4-4 record, though they have won their last two Game Threes---2-0 up in Ottawa this year, and 3-2 over the Caps at The Garden last year.
Will the Rangers snag Game 3 in Washington just as they did in Ottawa during the first-round? Share your prediction below.