Ryan McDonagh was taking plenty of punishment. Every time he touched the puck, someone from the Washington Capitals was hitting him.
That went on for 60 shifts and 53:31 in Wednesday night’s triple-overtime victory by the New York Rangers in Game 3.
“Mac is a guy that he has a mental toughness about him that has impressed us right away when he came to us,” coach John Tortorella said. “We kept asking him, ‘Are you OK?’ And he said was fine. He wanted more.”
McDonagh played almost four minutes more than any other Rangers player (Marc Staal, 49:30) and over 10 minutes more than the closest Caps player (Dennis Wideman, 41:40). And there was defenseman Stu Bickel sitting on the end of the bench looking like the loneliest man in the world.
Tortorella benched Bickel after a blunder in Game 2, and the 25-year-old seemed to accept that role of not seeing much of the ice.
“I think he’ll be fine,” Tortorella said after Wednesday’s morning skate. “He has to be. If he isn’t, he’ll play less.”
Bickel took just three shifts Wednesday night against the Caps, the final one coming in the second period. Even as it became a marathon and some fans had to call it a night, Tortorella and his staff never tapped Bickel on the shoulder to get into the game, and the Rangers rolled five defensemen.
“With Bick, you get into a situation where you ice Bick and you just know this is going to go on for a while, but it’s an awful tough situation to put Bick into after he’s sitting for a while,” the coach said. “So we made the decision just to stick with the five.”
That meant a heavy workload for McDonagh, who didn’t even realize he had played over 50 minutes in the win.
“It’s not really exhaustion when you win a game,” he said. “You feel like all that effort paid off. That’s the only way to put it.”
McDonagh absorbed countless hits, the biggest one coming from Matt Hendricks 4:30 into the first overtime. It was clean, shoulder-to-shoulder, but devastating, and the defenseman didn’t miss a shift.
“Mac gets run over, and I think it took him a couple shifts to get his bearings,” Tortorella said.
But he didn’t make a key mistake that cost New York. He just went back about his business shutting down the Caps.
“You just try and get out there and keep it simple and play hard come to the bench and get your breath as fast as you can,” McDonagh said. “I mean, everybody put forth a hell of an effort. It’s just a good character win in a tough playoff series.”