Game 5, Eastern Conference Quarterfinal Series (Rangers lead, 3-1)
April 24 vs. New York Rangers at Verizon Center
Time: 7:00 pm
TV: Versus, Comcast SportsNet
Radio: Caps Radio 106.7 FM, 1370 AM and XM
Pregame: Pre-Cap podcast at 2 p.m. and Two-Man Advantage at 5:45 p.m. on www.washingtoncaps.com
New York Rangers (43-30-9, 95 points)
Washington Capitals (50-24-8, 108 points)
Just under a year ago, the Washington Capitals came home from a 3-2 overtime loss to the Flyers in Philadelphia down three games to one in their opening round playoff series. After dropping a 2-1 heartbreaker to the Rangers in Wednesday’s Game 4 in New York, the Caps are again heading home in familiar territory.
The Rangers own a 3-1 chokehold on the series, and only three straight wins over the Blueshirts will prevent the Caps from a first-round exit after they recorded a franchise record 108 points during the regular season. Washington will try for the first of those three wins on Friday night when it hosts the Rangers for Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal Series.
Rather than think of winning three straight games over the Rangers and their otherworldly goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, the Caps might do better to try winning one game in a row, three times.
“You’ve just got to take them one game at a time,” says Caps coach Bruce Boudreau, invoking one of the oldest clichés in sports. “If you look at it as 3-1, it’s a daunt when Sunday comes. To me, it’s a one-game series right now. Let’s just win the one game at home and turn the series around.”
The Caps nearly pulled off a 3-1 series rebound against the Flyers last season. They won a 3-2 decision in Game 5 on Verizon Center ice, then went to Philadelphia and took Game 6 by a 4-2 score. Washington’s comeback fell short when the Flyers won Game 7 in overtime at the Phone Booth on April 22 of last year.
“If we dwell on last year, then we’ll end up where we were last year,” warns Boudreau. “So we have to dwell on what’s in front of us. It’s a new situation and a new situation. We didn’t get the job done last year. Hopefully this year, in the same situation, we will.”
Although the Caps have outscored New York 8-7 in the series and they’ve outshot the Rangers by an average of 37.2 per game (second best among the 16 playoff teams) to 24.8 per game (second fewest among the 16 playoff entrants), they find themselves one loss away from another long summer.
“There’s not a lot to remind them of right now except that they have to win,” says Boudreau. “It’s not like I believe that we’ve been outplayed and we’re down 3-1.
The Caps had a chance to even the series at 2-2 in Game 4 on Wednesday in New York. Caps goaltender Simeon Varlamov gave up one goal on a fluky deflection and another on a rebound he failed to corral. Washington managed just one goal of its own, despite firing 39 shots on Lundqvist. Two other bids hit the post behind the New York netminder.
The Caps had six power play chances, but failed on all six. Two of those came in the third period when Rangers’ pest Sean Avery lost control and took a pair of egregious fouls, one for roughing Milan Jurcina and one for high-sticking Brian Pothier. Avery got off lightly on the roughing minor; replays clearly showed him throwing the gloved butt end of his stick into Jurcina’s face.
Washington outshot New York 28-8 after Chris Drury’s goal gave the Rangers a 2-0 lead in the third minute of the second period. Caps left wing Alex Ovechkin – the league’s leading goal scorer with 56 during the regular season – finally netted his first of this series when he solved Lundqvist in the third minute of the third period. But that was all the Caps could muster. Lundqvist shut the door the rest of the way.
“Their best penalty killer is their goaltender,” says Boudreau. “He is playing great. We’re averaging 37 shots to  a game. At this point, they’re having a tough time beating him. But tomorrow will be another day.”
Tomorrow will be, but the Caps will need to win on Friday to keep the tomorrows coming after that.
Fun Fact: The Caps have put 35 or more shots on Lundqvist in each of the first four games of this opening round Stanley Cup playoff series. The last time the Rangers allowed 35 or more shots on goal in as many as four straight games was a five-game run from Nov. 14-23, 2001.
New York surrendered 42, 36, 40, 39 and 51 shots, respectively, in those five games. The Rangers were outshot in four of those five games and still managed a 3-1-1 record during that stretch.
The last of those five games was in Washington, a 6-2 Capitals win in which the home team outshot New York 51-23.
Short Shifts: Nicklas Backstrom has six assists in eight career regular season games against New York. He had nine goals and 33 points in his last 28 games of the ’08-09 season. Backstrom finished the regular season tied for third in the league with 66 assists, third most ever by a Capital in a single season. He was tied for ninth in the NHL with 88 points. Backstrom is the first Capital ever to appear in all 164 games in his first two seasons in the league … Matt Bradley has a goal and three points in 22 career regular season games against the Rangers … Donald Brashear has eight assists and 237 penalty minutes in 48 regular season games against the Blueshirts. The Rangers and Canadiens are the only NHL teams against which Brashear has not scored a goal … Chris Clark has four goals and eight points in 14 career regular season games against the Rangers … John Erskine has one assist in 11 career games against New York … Sergei Fedorov has 10 goals and 35 points in 27 career regular season games against the Blueshirts. He had three goals and five points in his last six games of 2008-09 … Eric Fehr has a goal and three points in six career regular season games against New York … Tomas Fleischmann has two goals and three points in nine career regular season games against the Rangers. He had two goals and five points in his last five regular season games … Boyd Gordon has two goals and four points in 11 career games against the Rangers … Mike Green has five goals and nine points in 10 career regular season games against the Blueshirts. He had eight goals and 15 points in his last dozen regular season games. Green scored two goals on April 1 against the Islanders to become the first NHL defenseman since 1992-93 to score 30 or more goals in a season. He also set a Caps record for defensemen with 18 power play goals in a season … Brent Johnson is 2-0 with a 1.76 GAA and a .929 save pct. lifetime against New York … Viktor Kozlov has 11 goals and 29 points in 46 career games against the Rangers. He had a goal and four points in his last five regular season games … Brooks Laich has a goal and five points in 14 career games against the Blueshirts. Along with Backstrom, Laich was one of only two Caps to appear in all 82 regular season games in 2008-09. Laich finished the season with five goals and 12 points in his last eight games … Shaone Morrisonn has a goal and two points in 17 career games against New York. His lone career goal against the Blueshirts was the overtime game-winner in the Caps’ 5-4 come-from-behind win at New York on Dec. 23, 2008. Morrisonn has been a plus or even player in each of his six NHL seasons. He played plus or even hockey in each of his last six games of 2008-09 and was plus-3 during that stretch … Michael Nylander has six goals and 16 points in 24 career regular season games against the Rangers. He had a goal and three points in his last four regular season games … Alex Ovechkin has 10 goals and 18 points in 16 career contests vs. New York. He led the NHL in goals with 56 in 2008-09 and was second in scoring with 110 points. Ovechkin fired 528 shots on goal, second most ever in a single season in NHL history. He had 25 goals and 50 points in his final 32 regular season games … Brian Pothier has three assists in 16 career games against the Rangers. He had a goal and three points in his last six regular season games … Tom Poti has a goal and eight points in 17 career games against the Rangers … Jeff Schultz has a goal and two points in seven career games against the Blueshirts … Alexander Semin has two goals and nine points in 12 career games against New York. He had 13 goals and 29 points in his last 22 regular season games. Semin never went more than two games without a point at any point during the 2008-09 season … David Steckel has one assist in nine career games against the Blueshirts … Jose Theodore is 11-8-3 with a 2.47 GAA and a .914 save pct. lifetime against the Rangers. Theodore won 32 games this season, the second best single-season total of his career … Simeon Varlamov went 4-0-1 in his first six regular season appearances (five starts) in the NHL … Nik Antropov has seven goals and 17 points in 25 career games against the Capitals. He had seven goals and 13 points in 18 regular season games with the Rangers after coming over at the trade deadline … Sean Avery has five goals and seven points in seven career games against the Caps. He totaled five goals and 12 points in 18 games with New York in 2008-09 … Blair Betts has one goal in 16 career games vs. Washington … Ryan Callahan has three goals and four points in seven career games against the Caps. He finished out the regular season with seven goals and 15 points in his last 15 games … Chris Drury has six goals and 23 points in 26 career games against the Capitals. He had four goals and nine points in his final seven regular season games… Brandon Dubinsky has four assists in eight career games against the Caps. He had four goals in his final eight regular season games … Daniel Girardi has an assist in nine career games against Washington. He closed out the season with a goal and four points in his last seven games … Scott Gomez has nine goals and 30 points in 34 career games against the Capitals … Lauri Korpikoski has a goal and two points in three career games against the Caps … Henrik Lundqvist is 3-3-2 with a shutout, a 2.77 GAA and a .905 save pct. during his career against Washington. He went 1-1-1 with a 3.57 GAA and an .882 save pct. against the Caps during the regular season. Lundqvist went 11-5 with a 2.20 GAA and a .924 save pct. in his final 16 starts of the regular season. He is 1-3-1 with a 3.52 GAA and an .869 save pct. in five career starts at Verizon Center … Paul Mara has three goals and eight points in 24 career games against the Capitals … Derek Morris has three assists in 11 career games against Washington. He had six assists in his last eight regular season games … Markus Naslund has seven goals and 19 points in 24 career games against the Caps. He had a goal and three points in his last three regular season games … Wade Redden has six goals and 27 points in 45 career games against the Capitals … Michal Rozsival has seven goals and 13 points in 25 career games vs. Washington … Fredrik Sjostrom has one assist in seven career games against the Capitals … Marc Staal has two assists in eight career games against the Caps … Steve Valiquette is 0-1-1 with a 2.52 GAA and an .909 save pct. lifetime against Washington … Aaron Voros has a goal in his four career games against the Capitals … Nikolai Zherdev has two assists in six career games against the Caps. He has three goals and five points in his last seven games.
New York Rangers
Goaltender Brent Johnson is day-to-day.
Defenseman Jeff Schultz is day-to-day.
Right wing Chris Clark is day-to-day.
Left wing Quintin Laing is out.
Possible Line Combos and Defensive Pairings
New York Forwards
91-Naslund, 19-Gomez, 16-Avery
80-Antropov, 23-Drury, 13-Zherdev
29-Korpikoski, 17-Dubinsky, 24-Callahan
20-Sjostrom, 15-Betts, 28-Orr
New York Defensemen