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Rangers show character in Game 4 victory over Capitals

- May 9th, 2013

NEW YORK — Ladies and gentlemen, we now have a series. And a pretty darn good one at that.

Remember those goal-scoring woes the New York Rangers endured during the first two games of this match-up with the Washington Capitals?

No? They don’t either. But the Capitals will surely remember the eight goals they surrendered during the past two as the Rangers pulled even at 2-2 and turned this series into a best-of-3 that continues Friday at Verizon Center.

It was another wild one at Madison Square Garden as the Rangers built a 2-0 lead on goals from Brad Richards and Carl Hagelin.

Richards’ goal broke a scoreless deadlock at 16:25 of the first period and came after Caps G Braden Holtby had his long pass attempt to Eric Fehr swatted out of the air by Rangers RW Taylor Pyatt, who got the puck over to Hagelin.

With only Caps D-man John Carlson standing between him and the back of the net, Hagelin wound up but was denied by the blue-liner.

“He made a good save. I just tried to take a hard clapper towards the net because I saw Holtby was headed back to the net. Carlson stepped in there and saved it but I’m glad (Richards) put it in,” said Hagelin.

You can bet Richards was glad to put the puck in as well, as it was the first goal and point of the series for the former Conn Smythe Trophy winner.

Caps head coach Adam Oates wasn’t thrilled with the development.

“It’s a tough break. Obviously, not turn it over. It was a borderline high-stick (Pyatt to knock it down). I mean it was close. But you know what, it’s an accident. It happens. We’ve got to be able to score two goals. We trust him,” said Oates, who was asked if it’s something you have to live with when you have a goalie that plays the puck as much and as well as Holtby. “Absolutely. Yeah, you know what, he had the poise to make the first guy gamble. Probably, obviously in hindsight he could’ve made a better decision, gone up the wall. But he saw something and we trust him.”

Richards was double-shifted at times by Rangers head coach John Tortorella and his veteran C rewarded him. However, Richards got beat in front of the net when Mathieu Perreault tied the game 2-2 with 17.1 seconds left in the second period after Joel Ward drove around Michael Del Zotto.

But after the Caps had seemingly swung momentum back on their side following a mostly lifeless 30-plus minutes, LW Jason Chimera took an undisciplined interference penalty as time expired in the second, giving the Rangers a PP to start the third.

Just 59 seconds in, Derick Brassard made a perfect backhand saucer pass that found Dan Girardi at the left point for a blistering one-timer that beat Holtby.

After putting up a goal and two assists in Game 3, Brassard had two more assists to give him five points in four games during his first Stanley Cup playoff series.

“I’m having fun. They showed a lot of confidence in me. I just try to help the team. I know I can bring some offence. We can do a lot of damage and I want to be part of it,” said Brassard, who also won 8-of-9 draws (89%).

The Rangers have done an excellent job making adjustments during the past two games to get their forecheck going. They outhit (38-20), blocked more shots (34-19) and won 64% of the face-offs in this game.

“We got ourselves in a bit of a hole to start the series off, losing two on the road,” said Rangers captain Ryan Callahan, who helped set up the game-winning goal by Stepan and added six shots on goal, five hits, seven blocked shots and sucked John Erskine into taking an roughing minor. “Coming back here we were confident. We know if we took these two at home we were right back in the series. And that’s where we find ourselves.”

Now it’s time to see if Oates can come up with some adjustments or coax his group into doing a better job of executing.

Perreault was probably the best Caps player on Wednesday, picking up a pair of goals, including one that grazed off his back after a shot from the point by Karl Alzner, making it a one-goal game at 7:31 of the third.

The Capitals lost LW Martin Erat late in the first period with a suspected wrist (or forearm) injury, the collateral damage from Alex Ovechkin taking a run at Rangers C Derek Stepan, who had no issue with the hit in question.

“It’s a hockey play. There was a penalty called. It’s part of the game and it’s part of the playoffs. I wasn’t too worried about it,” said Stepan, who delivered his second GWG in as many games.

Ovechkin and Erat were both penalized on the play, but the Rangers were unable to cash in during the two-man advantage that lasted one minute and 34 seconds.

After playing two solid games to start the series, the impact of Ovechkin has been limited the past two games. He needs to do more if the Capitals want to get back in control of this series.

“That’s part of the game. The (Nicklas Backstrom line) had their moments, but obviously they could probably generate more and you’ve got to give them so credit there. And you’ve got to fight through the frustration. It happens.”

One shot on goal and one hit is not good enough in either category. If he’s not dangerous, the Caps could be in trouble.

“We need to work harder for our luck, myself included, and we’ll go from there,” said Holtby, who made 30 saves in a losing cause. “It’s a three-game series now. It’s the same. We still have home-ice advantage and like I said before, we knew it was going to be a tough series. We learned last year that this team that we’re playing doesn’t give up and we don’t either.”

Speaking of injuries, Rangers D Marc Staal sat out Game 4 after suffering a setback related to the right eye injury he suffered on Mar. 5 while LW Ryane Clowe made his series debut, chipping in an assist while taking 16 shifts for 12 minutes and 19 seconds of ice time.

Clowe replaced Darroll Powe (suspected concussion), while Steve Eminger drew back in for Staal but was limited to five minutes and 54 seconds of ice time.

It will be interesting to see if the Caps insert LW Aaron Volpatti for Erat or if they place a call to the Hersey Bears for RW Joey Crabb, who has five goals in five Calder Cup playoff games.

The Rangers will hold an optional practice before making their way to Washington, D.C. on Thursday, while the Caps are scheduled to work out in Arlington, Va. after heading home after the game.

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