- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 11, 2013

If the old cliché that a playoff series doesn’t begin until the home team loses a game is to be believed, the Washington Capitals and New York Rangers haven’t even gotten started. But it’s not just that the Caps are 3-0 at Verizon Center and Rangers 2-0 at Madison Square Garden so far in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals, it’s that the location of the games has seemingly made all the difference.

“I think the electricity of the building can sometimes get you through maybe moments where maybe you’re sluggish,” coach Adam Oates said. “It’s your own confines. You just feel good in your building.”

Back in the not-so-friendly confines of Madison Square Garden for Game 6 Sunday afternoon with the chance to eliminate the Rangers, the Caps believe the key to the difference between home and road play is them.

“Not that we played bad, I just don’t think we executed quite as well as we had at home,” goaltender Braden Holtby said of losses at New York. “Not to take anything away from them. I thought they played really well in their barn in Games 3 and 4. And we know they’re going to play that well again. We just have to match it.”

In Games 1, 2 and 5 in Washington, the Caps and Rangers combined for seven goals. There were seven goals in each of Games 3 and 4 in New York.

So much is made of line matching against Alex Ovechkin, who has just two points in the series, but John Tortorella finds a way to get defensemen Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi on the ice no matter what. There’s more to the chess match between Oates and Tortorella than that.

“They made adjustments for Game 3 and it took us two games to figure that out,” defenseman Karl Alzner said. “We thought we had it figured out in Game 4, but they came out really hard again. So it’s just all about being able to adapt, and they changed and we didn’t get there quick enough. There’s no doubt that it’s a tough building to play in; they’ll have more energy and more emotion but we’ve got to use that [to our advantage].”

At Madison Square Garden in Games 3 and 4, the Rangers did feed off the crowd and pushed the pace on the Caps. Tactically, things were difficult, too.

“They did a really good job of dumping the puck, keeping it away from Holtby and making it so he couldn’t get touches to help our D-men break it out,” right wing Troy Brouwer said. “We have to get a little bit cleaner through our D-zone, to be able to come out with possession, rather than chipping the puck into the neutral zone. If we need to, obviously relieve pressure and get it out of our zone. We want to be a puck-possession team and we’ve got to come out of our zone with possession.”

Having speed through the neutral zone is one thing Ovechkin lamented the lack of in New York. The Maurice Richard Trophy-winner and Hart candidate was held without a point for the past three games, the first time that has happened in his playoff career.

“It’s pressure just for everybody right now,” Ovechkin said. “We know if we win we moving [on] and if losing we going to come back and play next game.”