New York Rangers vs. Washington Capitals, 12:30 PM at the Verizon Center
Game Four, Eastern Conference Semifinals (Rangers lead 2-1)
Where To Watch: NBC
Where To Listen: 1050 ESPN Radio, and newyorkrangers.com
Live In-Game Chat: 12:15 PM on blueshirtsunited.com
After an exhausting and exhilerating 2-1 triple-overtime win in Game 3 on Wednesday night/Thursday morning, the Rangers return to action this afternoon looking to grab a commanding 3-1 series lead when they face the Capitals at the Verizon Center. Both teams benefited physically and mentally from the extra day off between games on Thursday, and both should be ready to go, as per usual, today. The Rangers had five players log more than 40 minutes of ice-time in Game 3---led by Ryan McDonagh, who played more than 53 minutes, and Marc Staal, who playe djust under 50. On the other side of the ice, however, Caps coach Dale Hunter spread his ice-time out more evenly---and it will be interesting to see if that works to Washington's favor this afternoon. Only one Caps player---defenseman Dennis Wideman---logged more than 40 minutes of ice-time, at 41:40. Both teams received contributions from their entire lineup in Game 3, though, and the Rangers really received a boost from their fourth line, which had had a fairly quiet post-season to that point. John Mitchell, who had been held without a shot on goal the first nine playoff games, had five on Wednesday night; and Mike Rupp played nearly 16 minutes, and came close to scoring the game-winning goal in the second overtime period. The Rangers likely will deploy the same lineup today as the one they've deployed the last two games, meaning that Brandon Dubinsky, who still is hurt and not skating, will not play once again in Game 4. Henrik Lundqvist, who has allowed just five goals in nearly 12 periods in this series so far, will make his 10th straight start of the playoffs between the pipes for the Rangers.
Rangers-Brian Boyle: After admittedly not playing his best in his Game 2 return to the lineup, Boyle was a big factor in Wednesday's Game 3 victory---earning high praise from his coach, John Tortorella, yesterday. Boyle delivered a game-high nine hits in just over 31 minutes of ice-time, and showed no ill effects from his recent concussion. Boyle also took 31 faceoffs during the game---including too-many-to-mention important ones in the defensive zone---and won 55% of his draws. Offensively, defensively, and physically, Boyle will need to come up big again in Game 4 today.
Capitals-Nicklas Backstrom: Once one of the league's most dominating offensive centers, Backstrom has been on a downward trend the past two seasons---as well as in the last two post-seasons he has played in. Backstrom has just five points (1-4-5) in nine playoff games this year---and just one assist in this series. And in Game 4 he managed three shots on goal in 34+ minutes of ice-time, but won only 34% of his faceoffs---while taking a team-high 29 draws. Despite all this, Backstrom can be a difference maker offensively for the Caps, and will need to be for Washington too bounce back here in Game 4.
"It's the same old, they're going to try and come out and even the series. We both realize (Game 3) was not an ordinary game that we played, but when it's all said and done, it was just one game, and now it's 2-1. That's all it is. We want to win Game 4 and go up 3-1 for sure. It's going to be another tough one."-Brian Boyle
Despite losing Game 4 of their opening round series with Ottawa, the Rangers have won five of their last seven playoff Game Fours since 2007, and are 39-30 all-time in Game Fours.
With a goal and an assist in Game 3, Marian Gaborik is tied with Brad Richards (2-2-4) for the Rangers scoring lead with four points (1-3-4) in the first three games of this series with Washington. Gaborik is also second to Richards in overall playoff scoring with seven points (2-5-7) in ten games.
Will the Rangers continue the magic and win Game 4 this afternoon in DC? Share your prediction below.
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