Caps search for ‘killer instinct’ vs. Rangers

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Don’t expect Bruce Boudreau to float like a butterfly or sting like a bee, but he sure hopes his Capitals take after Muhammad Ali.

“They always said he had a great killer instinct,” the coach said. “When he got you in trouble he’d [finish] and other guys would let you off the hook.”

By that analogy, the Rangers are on the ropes going into Saturday’s Game 5 at Verizon Center and the Caps are hoping to show their killer instinct and wrap up the series.

Through four games, the Caps have gotten a couple good bounces and taken advantage of Rangers mistakes to build this lead that at least by the numbers is commanding. “Never in command,” young center Marcus Johansson said.

And he’s right. One New York victory makes this tight (again) with Game 6 set for Monday night at Madison Square Garden if necessary.

“We know these are the tough ones to win; you gotta seal a team out when you’re given the chance,” defenseman Scott Hannan said. “We’re gonna have to play the way we know we can. When we play the way we can, we’re a pretty tough team to beat.”

So are the Rangers. John Tortorella stressed earlier this week that his team was so close to breaking through. It did in Game 3 and should have probably waxed the Caps in Game 4 before coughing up a 3-0 lead.

Now, it’s desperation time.

“They’re not going to quit, that’s for sure. They’re going to come out with everything. It’s do or die for them,” center Jason Arnott said. “We’ve got to come out ready to go and try and finish this.”

Last year is still a painful, though forgettable, memory for the Caps. Facing the same situation – up 3-1 coming home against the Canadiens – Washington got run in the first 10 minutes of Game 5 and went on to lose the series. Asked what he remembered from that experience, Alex Ovechkin said: “I don’t remember nothing. I forget about it.”

Most players feel the same way – that the Montreal series is in the past and that this is a new team. Much of the belief about a new team comes from new players – namely Arnott and Hannan, who weren’t part of that collapse. As much as they helped in the regular season, they’re here for playoff time and to get this first-round series out of the way.

“A monkey on your back that you want off, Arnott said. “And I think for the most part – the guys in here and myself – we got to just put that in the past. It’s just done and over with. We got to think about moving forward and that’s (Saturday) afternoon.”

For the guys who were a part of last year’s debacle, it was a lesson.

“The way you gotta look at it is every game is a must-win, defenseman Karl Alzner said. “Even if it’s not to clinch a series or anything, it’s to send a message.”

For four games, these two teams have exchanged jabs and messages, but now the Caps hope they have it in them for the knockout blow.

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