After playing the first two games of their best-of-seven playoff series against the Capitals on the road, the Rangers return to New York this evening to their home, Madison Square Garden, and their fans, the Blueshirt Faithful, looking to swing the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals back in their favor.
And to say the Rangers are excited at the prospect of playing tonight at The Garden would be a major understatement.
"I was getting chills during the regular season playing here at The Garden, so I can't even imagine what it's going to be like in the playoffs," defenseman John Moore said after Monday's morning skate. "In Washington the first playoff game of my career, that's one of the biggest things that jumps out at you--how electric the building is and how everyone is so into it. I am excited to play here in front of our fans tonight, and I'm sure it will be a night that I won't forget."
The Rangers were 16-6-2 during the 2013 regular season on home ice, winning their last six games at The Garden. Interestingly their last defeat on home ice was a 3-2 shootout loss to Braden Holtby and the Capitals back on March 24th. During those six games the Rangers outscored their opponents 27-7 and never allowed more than two goals in any one of those contests.
While the familiarity of The Garden and season-long success on home ice will benefit the Rangers tonight as they try and climb out of a 2-0 hole in this series, they will also be lifted by the amazing support they will receive from their stoked fans, likely leading to a charged up start by the home team this evening.
"I am just so excited and I can't wait to step up on the ice for warmups for my first game here at MSG as a Ranger," explained forward Derek Dorsett, who was credited with seven hits in just under 16 minutes of ice time in his Rangers debut in Game Two on Saturday. "The fans are great here and give us a lot of support. The Garden is going to be rocking here tonight and we have to make sure we use that energy throughout the whole game. We can't just come out hard and then back off. We must keep feeding off the energy in the building."
Last spring the Rangers won just 6 of 11 games at Madison Square Garden, though they did win both Game Sevens against Ottawa and Washington, as well as all three series openers against the Senators, Capitals, and Devils. The Blueshirts took three of four home games against the Caps in the second round, including the dramatic Game Five---which was tied in the final seconds by Brad Richards and won in overtime by Marc Staal.
Caps superstar Alex Ovechkin has been involved in some extreme high moments as a visitor to Madison Square Garden, as well as having suffered some painful lows. He played a big role in helping Washington erase a 3-0 deficit en-route to an incredible 4-3 double overtime win over the Rangers in Game Four of the opening round playoff series in 2011, and also saw his team drop the bitter one-goal defeats to the Blueshirts in Game 5 and Game 7 a year ago in the second round.
“It’s a loud building," Ovechkin said of MSG on Monday. "The atmosphere here is great. It’s fun to play here.”
The fun begins tonight at 7:30 PM.