Don't go far from your TV sets - the first five, 10 minutes of this game could be very telling.
As in, did the Rangers correct their defensive issues from Game 3's 4-0 loss.
"I just want us to play," coach John Tortorella said. "We're not going to overthink this. We know we didn't play well in certain areas. It's a matter of keeping the game simple. You have to play defense against this team. If you play sound defense, you'll have the puck more and maybe get involved in our offense. So that's a key."
"We have a positive attitude," defenseman Paul Mara said. "We're up 2-1 and we have a game at home. We have to contain their top players, they were extremely effecitve the other day. We were running around a bit in the last game. if we can control that, we'll have more success."
As Tortorella said earlier in the day - and based on the pre-game warmup line rushes - Chris Drury remains in the lineup. But not necessarily at center.
Sean Avery-Scott Gomez-Ryan Callahan
Markus Naslund-Brandon Dubinsky-Nikolai Zherdev
Chris Drury-Lauri Korpikoski-Nik Antropov
Fredrik Sjostrom-Blair Betts-Colton Orr
Based on those combinations, the Rangers don't necessarily have a well-defined top line. Obviously, Gomez's line always counts as the top line but it could really be said the Rangers have three second lines.
Also, if you're not watching on TV and listening on radio - or if you want to listen on radio - I'll be the first intermission guest on ESPN-1050.
Updates as we go in this pivotal game.
UPDATE, PRIOR TO PUCK DROP: It's much louder in the Garden with fans clapping their hands instead of those silly thunder sticks.
UPDATE, 2:31 First period: Much better start for the Rangers. Puck constantly in the Capitals end. And I did notice Dan Girardi contantly keeping his head on a swivel, just like John Tortorella preached yesterday.
UPDATE, 3:38 First period: You just get the sense that if the Rangers could get one past Varlamov, they might get two or three, because they're certainly swarming the net. The other side, though is, it would be very deflating if they can't score and the Caps go down and get one despite the Rangers' start.
UPDATE, 5:40 First period: The Capitals are doing exactly what the Rangers did in the first period of Game 1 in Washington, just weathering the early storm. Rangers lead in shots, 4-0.
UPDATE, 8:02 First period: The Capitals get their first shot on Tom Poti's wrister at 6:34. And Sean Avery was not tripped. Happened right below the press box. If anything, he embellished.
UPDATE, 9:24 First period: Tough break for Markus Naslund/Rangers as Naslund looked to be throwing a hip check at Nicklas Backstrom and instead gets called for tipping.
UPDATE, 10:04 First period: Almost a huge boo-boo by Caps goalie Simeon Varlamov. Alex Semin is called for holding Fredrik Sjostrom but Varlamov starts leaving his net, thinking the penalty was against the Rangers.
UPDATE, 13:55 First period: Critical first goal for the Rangers as Naslund deflects Paul Mara's shot from the left point, with Brandon Dubinsky getting a clutch faceoff win. Even clutcher considering Varlamov somehow stretched out to stop Zherdev at the post to cause the faceoff. Pretty awesome environment here in the Garden listening to the crowd roar. Sometimes, you have to put down the pen, stop typing for a second and remember why you wanted to become a sports writer in the first place.
UPDATE TO LAST UPDATE: Great camerawork by MSG showing the puck hitting John Erskine's stick. Goal changed to Dubinsky with Mara getting the single assist. Nice celebration by Naslund, though.
UPDATE, 18:52 First period: Great penalty kill shift (again) by Sjostrom, who draws a hooking call against Mike Green as he gets down ice first.
AFTER FIRST PERIOD: Clutch first period for the Rangers, who are defending much better and, not coincidentally, attacking the Capitals net much better. They've now changed the goal to Mara with Dubinsky getting the only assist. They're running out of players who were on the ice at the time to credit for the tally. Here's some numbers on Varlamov: He had held the Rangers scoreless for 126:11, stopping 63 shots in a row in that span since Ryan Callahan's Game 2 goal. Now heading over to the radio booth to be first intermission guest. Join me.
UPDATE, 1:19 Second period: Rangers playing with fire here. Lundqvist stops Backstrom as the Capitals go 3-on-1 against Marc Staal. And, from the first period, Chris Drury is taking faceoffs. He went 1 for 3 in the first 20 minutes.
UPDATE, 2:23 Second period: Varlamov's first mistake of the series. He fails to glove Chris Drury's flip from the left boards, leaving the puck in front of the crease, with the puck finding its way back to the captain for his first goal of the series.
UPDATE, 6:50 Second period: Know you can't do anything about them, but these TV timeouts just kill the flow of what's been an up-and-down second period.
UPDATE, 13:56 Second period: Great timeout by Tortorella. The Rangers PK unit couldn't clear, couldn't get off the ice and still couldn't after Michal Rozsival was released from the box and the Rangers had to ice the puck. The Rangers have to realize two goals might not be enough tonight, not even with how fantastic Lundqvist is playing tonight. The Rangers have to revert to their aggressive selves from earlier. Capitals outshooting them, 26-15 overall, 17-4 in this period.
UPDATE, 16:25 Second period: It's like the Capitals have been on the PP most of the period. Shot advantage up to 19-4.
UPDATE, 19:05 Second period: Rangers absolutely cannot give up a goal in this final minute. Would be devastating.
AFTER SECOND PERIOD: Strange to say the Rangers escaped a period in which they scored the only goal but that's what the second period amounted to considering they were outshot 19-5. The Rangers have to be much better in the second period. Or, Lundqvist just has to stand on his head for the rest of the game. Gotta write for the newspaper.
UPDATE, 2:13 Third period: Yikes. Alex Ovechkin wrist shot beats Lundqvist high to the far post. Watch out, Rangers.
UPDATE, 10:21 Third period: Another awful penalty by Sean Avery, flinging his fist into Milan Jurcina's face and earning a two-minute minor. Avery missed the check. He needed to live with that. Now, a foray over the lines of discipline could cost the Rangers badly.
FINAL: RANGERS 2, CAPITALS: Above all other storylines is this one: the Rangers lead this series, 3-1. Of course, the fact that this franchise is 11-0 when taking that postseason lead means nothing this time around. Because the Capitals are a very, very good team. The only things separating the Rangers from a loss in this game was Henrik Lundqvist and some brilliant penalty killing, led by Lundqvist.
But the Rangers can't get the performance they got out of Sean Avery. His two penalties were just unconscionable. John Tortorella said after the game he wouldn't discuss it but you could tell he wasn't happy, especially when he said the team's discipline had to be better in Game 5 after six penalties tonight. Tortorella didn't even hint at questioning the refereeing so when he says it's stuff that will stay within the dressing room, you've got to think he'll be going ballistic on Avery. And it will be interesting to see how Avery reacts. These two penalties, plus a bad roughing call in Game 3 that Tortorella didn't like is the first real bump in the road in their relationship.
I certainly don't disagree with those who think Avery's night should have ended after he flailed at Jurcina's face. He very nearly cost the Rangers the game,w hich very well could have possibly cost the Rangers the series.
"I couldn't believe it when we ended up in the box again," Lundqvist said. "A couple of tough calls, I think, but we took care of business. The guys were amazing in front of me. it is a little scary. They have so many guys who can shoot the puck. Even though you think you are squared and all set, they can still beat you. I felt pretty sharp tonight. I had the luck i needed and the guys did the rest."
Sixteen blocked shots for the Rangers tonight. And they were fantastic on faceoffs, winning 39 of 58 (67 percent. Dubinsky was particularly amazing, winning 15 of 17 (88 percent).
Drury said he was laughing after his goal just because of how weak his first shot was from the boards.
The team is on the ice for practice at 11 tomorrow.