Ruslan Fedotenko happened to hit the puck unimpeded over the glass with 11:19 gone by in the third period of last night’s Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals at Madison Square Garden, and with the Capitals just having cut the score to 2-1 less than a minute earlier, this power play was their chance.
“If that team gets set up and stops you from being aggressive, they have some talented people,” Rangers coach John Tortorella said after his team won the game, 2-1, and advanced to the Eastern Conference finals against the Devils. “Our whole philosophy the whole series was trying to get them before they get set up.”
That’s exactly what they did, not only keeping the dangerous Capitals’ power play from registering a shot, but producing one of their own on a Brian Boyle breakaway (which got the puck in the net, but after review was called no-goal) and then eventually Marc Staal drawing a slash from Niklas Backstrom.
“It’s huge as a team to play disciplined, especially against a team with their power play,” said Boyle, noting that was the only penalty his team took all night.
* After toying with his lines during Games 5 and 6 of this series, Tortorella went back to what was working best.
The main focus was on what can be called the second line, which saw rookie Chris Kreider rejoin centerman Derek Stepan and captain Ryan Callahan on a unit that can again be called a secondary scoring line.
Before, when the line consisted of Boyle in the middle and Artem Anisimov on the wing, it was a glorified checking line, while Stepan playing with Brandon Prust and Fedotenko was much of the same.
From the middle of Game 4 until the end of Game 6, the Rangers had just one pure 5-on-5 goal over a span of 144:52, the lines clearly not producing enough offense.
Though last night most of the heavy lifting was done by the top line of Carl Hagelin-Brad Richards-Marian Gaborik, there was sustained pressure from the lines that followed, which was recently unseen.
There were even occasions where the new fourth line, with Fedotenko, John Mitchell and Mike Rupp sustained pressure and had scoring chances.
* Brandon Dubinsky walked through the locker room yesterday morning in sneakers and workout clothes, the first time he has been seen without a boot on his right foot or on crutches.
The Rangers forward had been out since he injured the leg/foot in Game 7 of the opening round against the Senators. There is no timetable for his return and it’s unsure if he will be able to return for the series against the Devils.
When asked how he’s feeling, Dubinksy said jokingly, “I defer all questions to Torts.”
The Rangers coach is adamant in not answering injury questions.
* Mats Zuccarello (fractured left wrist) skated again with the team, as he has now for almost a week. Still having to wear a soft cast on his wrist, the 24-year-old Norwegian is at least 10 days away from being available.
Brian Boyle, Rangers coach John Tortorella, Capitals, Madison Square Garden, Derek Stepan, Rangers, power play, the Eastern Conference semifinals, Ryan Callahan, Carl Hagelin-Brad Richards-Marian Gaborik, Brandon Prust, Chris Kreider