By Jay Greenberg, Special to CBC Sports
To the Game 1
loser goes the mandate for change. Will the Rangers have some options for Saturday afternoon in Washington?
Defenceman Marc Staal, out since March 5 with blurred vision, said he had nothing new to report. Every practice gets him closer, however, and two other Rangers who could greatly increase the team's depth appear possible during the first round, if not for Game 2.
Centre Brian Boyle (knee), who was missed on defensive zone draws on Washington power plays, skated again at practice. Left wing Ryane Clowe (suspected concussion) practiced for the first time since he was elbowed in the head in the Rangers next-to-last regular season game.
"I felt pretty good," Clowe said. "I'm not going to go out there and play if I can't take a hit [but] I feel like at this time of year I can jump in any time.
"We played a lot of hockey up to this point and it's kind of like my first game in New York [after the April 2 trade from San Jose]. I didn't really have any sleep, but you run on adrenaline to get you back into it. So, I think conditioning isn't that big of a factor."
Indeed, coach John Tortorella said players will play when they are cleared medically, no matter how far behind they potentially are in game-readiness.
"I don't give a damn about conditioning," said Tortorella. "Because if we don't win, we're done.
"If I think a player is going to help us, he's going to play."False start
Whoever is in the lineup will be expected to come out with more jump than the Rangers showed in the first 10 minutes of Game 1, when they were outshot 10-1.
"[The Caps] were shooting the puck from everywhere," shrugged Tortorella. "There wasn't a lot of great scoring chances within that time.
"Having [Mats Zuccarello] jump on the ice for the wrong guy 34 seconds into the game [and receive a delay-of-game penalty] didn't help, so yeah, we definitely want more of a territorial-type start. But I thought we did a really good job of getting through that part and finding ourselves in the second half of that period."
Carl Hagelin banked a wrap-around in off of John Erskine's skate to give the outplayed Rangers a 1-0 lead late in the opening period. But they never scored again despite outplaying the Caps territorially for most of the second and third periods.
"The second goal, I think it could change the complexion, and we had opportunities," said Tortorella. "They score on their breakaway and take a lead."Caps braced
"We have seen better from them," said Caps defenceman Karl Alzner about the Rangers' performance in Game 1. "Every time we play them we look at them as a team that can win the Stanley Cup."Boxed in
The Rangers actually beat the percentages in killing the Caps' power play, allowing one goal in five chances against a team that led the league with 26 per cent efficiency during the abbreviated season.
But that was too much time in the box for the least-penalized team in the league. And the timing of two second-period penalties -- Taylor Pyatt had just served an elbowing penalty when Arron Asham took another for a head hit -- didn't do much for morale.
Jack Hillen turned away from Asham, minimal contact was made, and the call was chintzy. Plus, the Caps got a break when Mike Green's power-play drive went wide and caromed off the backboards right to Alex Ovechkin, who tied the game. But the Rangers, who as currently constituted don't have a good second penalty-killing set of forwards after Derek Stepan and Ryan Callahan, figure they are playing with fire.
"[Ovechkin and Green] are good players, you have to give credit to good players," said Tortorella. "I thought we killed penalties well last night... but things like that are going to happen when there's good players on the ice and us down a man so many times.
"We can't be there. We will not win games if we're there. Forget about how you defend it, we can't be in the box that much."House of pain
Henrik Lundqvist and the Rangers have lost eight of their last nine playoff games in Washington since taking the first two of the 2009 first round, a series they lost in seven after being up 3-1.
The Rangers have not won a series in which they have dropped the opener since 1997 (second round against the Devils), losing four of them since their 2006 return to the playoffs following a seven-season absence.
The Rangers didn't get any help from the video reviewers when John Moore's third-period shot rolled down Braden Holtby's back and probably cleared the red line before the Washington goalie trapped it against his body.
But Tortorella had no complaint about the ruling of no goal.
"It's the right call," he said. "I think it's a goal, but I think it's the right call. They said no goal on the ice and you can't see it on the replay.
"I don't know what happened to the cameras that they always want that are above the net, maybe they don't have them here in Washington, I don't know, but I know they always want... well, forget it, I'm not gonna go there." Follow Jay Greenberg on Twitter @ScribeJG.
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