NEW YORK | When Tom Poti was leaving the ice Sunday at Madison Square Garden, a few dozen New York Rangers fans stuck around to remind him how they still feel about him.
Poti had just finished his best offensive outing since he wore a home sweater in this building. He drew the ire of the Rangers’ faithful back then, and after he helped his Washington Capitals even this series with a decisive 5-3 victory in Game 6, it was clear nothing has changed.
“I could care less about any of that,” said Poti, who had a goal and three assists. “I am just glad we got a win tonight, and we’ve got more work to do.”
After spending much of his career with a reputation as an offense-first defenseman with issues in his end, Poti joined the Caps before last season and has become the team’s top defensive blueliner.
At the same time, his offensive production slipped while Mike Green and Alex Ovechkin gobbled up most of the power-play time at the points. Poti had three goals and 13 points in the regular season - the lowest point total of his 10-year NHL career.
On Sunday at the Garden, though, Poti looked more like the player who racked up 48 points for the Rangers in 2002-03. His four-point game was his first since a four-assist game for the Rangers against the New York Islanders here Feb. 19, 2004. In the series, Poti has two goals and four assists.
One of the reasons for Poti’s increased production is more time with the extra man. He logged 2:24 on the power play Sunday, joining Green on the points with the top unit. Ovechkin moved up front with Alexander Semin and Nicklas Backstrom.
Caps pugilist Donald Brashear made his presence felt Sunday. Before the game, he and Colton Orr exchanged words at center ice while the teams were warming up.
Midway through the first period, Brashear leveled Rangers forward Blair Betts with a high, open-ice hit. Betts was down for a few minutes before going to the dressing room. He did not return.
New York’s Paul Mara went after Brashear, and both players drew roughing penalties for the ensuing scuffle.
Brashear was blunt about the play: “Because he had the puck and I felt like hitting the guy,” he said.
It appeared the puck had traveled far enough away that an interference penalty could have been called. Caps coach Bruce Boudreau said he did not believe Brashear should face any further discipline for the hit.
“We watched [the hit] in between periods,” Boudreau said. “To me that was a shoulder - a complete shoulder and he followed through, but the elbow didn’t hit him. It was a good shoulder hit.”
Rangers assistant coach Jim Schoenfeld didn’t feel the same way.
“It was a late hit to the head,” he said. “It was pretty vicious. He is a big, strong guy as you all know, and [Betts] didn’t see him coming. He is hurt significantly.”
Schoenfeld said Rangers center Brandon Dubinsky was bitten by Caps defenseman Shaone Morrisonn in the third period and had to receive a tetanus shot after the game.
“Morrisonn [bit him],” Schoenfeld said. “As [Dubinsky] was trying to show it to the linesman, instead of looking he gave him a 10-minute misconduct. That was a double whammy for us with [Betts] out.”
Sean Avery returned to the Rangers’ lineup after being a healthy scratch in Game 5. Schoenfeld said the decision to play Avery was made by coach John Tortorella, who was suspended for the game after an incident with a fan during Game 5 at Verizon Center.
Avery assisted on New York’s first goal, drawing a boisterous reaction from the crowd, but he had just two hits in nearly 20 minutes and wasn’t much of a factor otherwise.