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

Finish the Capitals. 

That will be the goal of the New York Rangers tonight as they enter the Verizon Center for Game 6 of this Eastern Conference Semifinal series with a 3-2 lead. It was a miraculous comeback in the final seconds of Game 5, which the Blueshirts would eventually win in overtime, that puts them in top position going into this contest. Just one win separates the Rangers from a trip to the Conference Finals against the New Jersey Devils (flashback to '94), and that win will be there for the taking tonight if New York plays to earn it. 

Nevertheless, whether the Rangers put forth their best effort or not, they will receive push-back from the Capitals, who are on the brink of elimination. In fact, the Caps have pushed back for most of this series, giving the first seed Rangers a serious run for their money. Despite taking a punch to the gut after forfeiting a lead with 6.6 seconds left and then losing in overtime on Monday night, the Capitals will be ready to play in Game 6. They've undergone quite the transformation this season after Dale Hunter took the reigns behind the bench, and with that made a tremendous rebound to reach this point. They will not be ready to throw in the towel on the 2011-12 season just yet. 

This is where the Rangers, who have had multiple poor opening periods in this series, must be careful. The Capitals are going to come out hard from the opening faceoff - everyone knows that - and the Blueshirts must battle through and respond to that surge. This series isn't over just because they came through with an unbelievable winning effort in Game 5. Their confidence cannot reach a non-healthy level, otherwise they'll find themselves having to play another Game 7 in these playoffs. 

If the Rangers can come out and play the opening twenty minutes tonight the way they did last game, they will be golden. That's not expected, though, because the Capitals were near lifeless then and will not be now. Going into the first intermission tied, at least, will suffice for New York, and that should be their objective.

With how tightly played this series has been, the outcome tonight is most likely to come down to a single play or bounce. This makes it even more important of a task for the Rangers to play smart, limit turnovers and capitalize on opportunities. You all saw the Rangers score back-to-back powerplay goals in Game 5 to tie and win the game; that's called opportunistic hockey, and the Rangers don't always fit that category all that well. They'll need to tonight, though, if they want to avoid a seventh game, which they should as I detailed this morning on the blog.

The first line of Carl Hagelin, Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik must be a factor in this game. They were terrific on Monday and played a huge role in the victory, but they must continue to have such success. There are ways to penetrate the Caps' strong defense, and this line discovered those ways in Game 5. 

Just as important will be the top pairing on defense, keeping an eye on the likes of Alex Ovechkin, Alex Semin and Nick Backstrom when they are out on the ice. Cutting off these three is equivalent to cutting off an artery in the human body. Washington will struggle to operate without their big three and so far the Rangers have done a pretty good job defending them. They'll need to do so again tonight. 

It's time to finally eliminate this team. Get it done, boys. 

New York Rangers Lineup


*Lines are subject to change. John Tortorella is the coach after all.

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