Originally posted on The Rangers Tribune  |  Last updated 5/2/12

The Rangers know what to expect tonight. Heading into the away arena tied, 1-1, after a disappointing loss on home ice in Game 2 is familiar territory for the Blueshirts, who were in the exact same situation a couple weeks ago in their series against the Ottawa Senators. The Capitals, after grabbing their first win in the series, have the momentum returning home to the Verizon Center, but it should not be dismissed that the Rangers were the better team on Monday night, despite the final result. It would be a mistake for the Caps to get too high on themselves going into this game. 

Obviously the Rangers would welcome that mistake with open arms, because they will come ready to play this evening in Game 3. There was plenty of frustration and letdown in that locker room on Monday night, and as they have all season, the Rangers will most definitely respond with a strong effort in this one. And it all begins from the top on down for New York. 

Much talk after the Game 2 loss was surrounding Marian Gaborik and Brad Richards. Both were on the scoresheet and neither played ‘bad’, but ‘not playing bad’ simply is not enough. Both players are counted on to carry this club offensively, but they’ve struggled to do that as of late. The spotlight is especially bright on Gaborik, who has just one goal in the playoffs to this point. He’s gradually shown improvement throughout this series, but it is now time for him to put the puck in the net, especially if Alex Ovechkin suddenly becomes a factor for the Capitals. 

It will be interesting to see what head coach John Tortorella does with the lines in regards to Richards and Gaborik, because they were split up in the second half of Monday’s tilt for reasons the coach rejected to go into detail about. My guess is that Torts was looking to ignite a fire under each player and thought that maybe new linemates would quicken the process. They didn’t, so there are a lot of questions about whether or not he will go back to those combinations. 

Personally, I like Chris Kreider with Derek Stepan and Ryan Callahan, plus I think Hagelin and Kreider on opposite wings is far too much speed for Brad Richards to keep up with as the center on that line. 

But regardless of what the lineup looks like, the objectives for tonight are pretty straight up; stay out of the box, get traffic in front of Braden Holtby and hit the net with shots. Lacking execution in those three areas hurt the Rangers in Game 2 and are easily fixable if the correct adjustments are made. 

Ryan Callahan’s goal in that game is a prime example of how the Rangers must generate chances and score goals. Callahan clogged the slot in front of Holtby, drawing Washington defensemen with him, and Michael Del Zotto kept the point shot low and towards the net to set up the deflection. That’s a perfectly executed play right there and it’s really not too complex.

The Rangers cannot afford to go down two games to one tonight. Not only would they be down a game in the series, but they would be down having to win another at the Verizon Center on Saturday to save their own lives at that point. At the very least they want to come back to Madison Square Garden for Game 5 in a 2-2 split with the Caps, and obviously a 3-1 advantage would be even more ideal.

 And with the way they’ve played so far, it is entirely possible that the Rangers can win both of these games, especially if Richards and Gaboik step up as they are being called upon to do. 

New York Rangers (Probable) Lineup


LUNDQVIST FINALIST FOR TED LINDSAY AWARD

Henrik Lundqvist, Evgeni Malkin and Steven Stamkos have been voted by fellow members of the National Hockey League Players’ Association as finalists for the 2011-12 “Most Outstanding Player” award.

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