Originally posted on The Rangers Tribune  |  Last updated 5/9/12

It is not what the Washington Capitals did tonight in Game 6 at the Verizon Center that led to a 2-1 final score in favor of the home team, but rather what the New York Rangers failed to do. In what was undoubtedly the team's worst performance of the series, the Blueshirts showed up for just one of three periods and blew opportunity after opportunity to get themselves back into this game. From the coach on down, save for Henrik Lundqvist, no one was in this game mentally for New York, and now they find themselves in a position they did not wish to be in before tonight. The fate of their season, once again, relies on a seventh game Saturday night at Madison Square Garden. 

When you take a penalty just 1:13 into the first period of a hockey game and get scored on during the resulting powerplay, you know it's going to be a long night right off the bat. This is exactly how tonight's game began for the Rangers, as Anton Stralman was whistled for tripping on just the second shift of the tilt. Just 15 seconds later, Alex Ovechkin put the Capitals on the board with a huge powerplay goal coming off a one-timer. Ovechkin was Ryan Callahan's man to cover, but unfortunately Callahan took a spill away from the play, leaving the slot vacant, where Backstron set up No. 8 with a beauty of a feed for a bang-bang tally. 

The Rangers would respond with a series of forceful shifts of their own, working the puck below the hashmarks on offense, but the Capitals did a great job of keeping them to the outside, and any shots that did get to the net were gobbled up by Braden Holtby. The Rangers were actually the better team in the opening frame after the Ovechkin goal, but had nothing to show for it, even though they were handed two golden opportunities on back-to-back powerplays that were not converted on. What a surprise. 

Either the team was discouraged after not finding a way to tie things up or they just collectively agreed to take the second period off, because the following twenty minutes were probably the most unemotional for the Rangers in the postseason to this point. There was no will or urge from anyone to make a difference out there, making it easy for the Capitals to defend a 1-0 lead and diffuse any spark the Rangers may have had. 

There was one opportunity in that period for the Rangers to turn a spark into fire, and that came at 12:05 when Jeff Halpern was called for a double-minor penalty after high-sticking John Mitchell in the face. However, the Capitals just may have had more chances shorthanded than the Rangers did after the four minutes were over, which speaks to how putrid the effort was from John Tortorella's squad with the man advantage. 

It's puzzling how the Rangers can watch and critique video of themselves standing around and making pointless passes on powerplays, killing them themselves, yet they still manage to take the same approach every game when up a man. This is especially true against this Capitals team, which runs an ultra aggressive penalty-kill to constantly pressure the puck carrier. Repeatedly making a pass from the blue-line to the boards does not accomplish a thing - the Caps barely even have to move. 

Maybe the revolutionary idea of walking into the slot and firing a shot could make a difference? Maybe?

Just before the powerles powerplay, by the way, Jason Chimera put the Capitals up by two goals when he deflected a cross-crease pass by Nick Backstrom past Lundqvist at the top of the crease. Here's another revolutionary idea: Maybe the Rangers should, you know, isolate that Backstrom guy since he seems to create more than half of the Caps' goals. Just a thought. 

The third period consisted mainly of more gutless hockey from the Rangers, who accepted the fact that they were only getting shots from the outside and not crashing the net for any rebounds. Don't get me wrong, Braden Holtby played very well when he needed to, but just how often did he need to? Not as often as he should have, which has been the case for the entire series. 

Marian Gaborik would score with 50 seconds left on the clock to cut Washington's lead to 2-1, but it was too little too late as the Rangers fell short of pulling off another miracle comeback. 

Now I could sit here and pick out individual performances and point fingers, but I'm not going to. The Rangers, as Tortorella always says, win and lose as a team. No one played even near well tonight except for Henrik Lundqvist, whose marvelous performance between the pipes was completely wasted by his teammates. Plus, you guys do a pretty stellar job of calling players out in the comments anyway. 

The effort level tonight was unacceptable and not anywhere close to what it needs to be in order to defeat the Capitals. You have to question the leadership in this situation, which includes the coaches, for not being able to rally the troops in a game of such great importance. The Capitals easily cruised through this game to force a Game 7 without much of a contest from their opponent. That is humiliating for the Rangers, who normally pride themselves on their hard-working, blue collar style of play. This was their chance to put the Caps away and not have to face another do or die situation, but they were no shows to the party. 

Now they must play one more game than they should with the fate of their season relying on the outcome. It didn't have to be carried out this way, but the Rangers chose their own path here. The lack of desperation tonight made it appear as if they were begging for the opportunity to end this thing at home in front of their home fans. 

They better hope that's the case or they will be sent packing by the Capitals for the third time in four years on Saturday night. 

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