Chasing around Alex Ovechkin around a 200-foot by 85-foot sheet of ice can make for a long night in Chinatown.
That was the job – and will continue to be the job – of Rangers defensemen Marc Staal and Dan Girardi, who seem to be out there for just about every shift by Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Knuble.
At the end of the night, Staal had played 33:48 and Girardi 32:50. Afterward, Ovechkin discussed being able to wear down those defensemen by the time overtime arrived.
“I think in overtime they was a little bit tired and we was fresher,” Ovechkin said. “I think everybody was tired. It’s a game. The put their best D on the ice most of the time. They make mistake, we use it.”
That mistake was a turnover by Staal in the defensive zone that Jason Arnott intercepted and got to Alexander Semin for the game-winner.
Bruce Boudreau downplayed on Thursday the idea that Staal and Girardi were overworked … at least so far.
“When you’re always watching the Girardi-Staal tandem, they’re 25-26 minutes on a regular night,” he said, “and they were on that same weight last night, except we played in overtime so they played more.”
But that doesn’t mean their life is easy. Especially if the Marco Sturm-Arnott-Semin line is clicking. Then, Rangers coach John Tortorella has to play a chess game. Boudreau said it’s easy for opponents to match defensive pairs – even though the home team gets the last change.
With a second line posing a threat, though, that might even open up some ice the rest of the series for Ovechkin.
“What Alex Semin gives us if he’s playing the way he’s capable of, he gives you two lines that makes it difficult – which line do you put your best defensive pair against?” Boudreau said.
Now it’s Tortorella’s move.