NEW YORK (AP) - If the New York Rangers are bothered by Bruce Boudreau’s claims of dirty play and his disparaging remarks about Madison Square Garden, they are keeping those thoughts to themselves.
Appearing focused Tuesday as they prepared for Game 4 on Wednesday night, the Rangers are concentrating on getting even with the Washington Capitals and staying away from the complaints of their opponent’s outspoken coach.
“Our mindset is we’re just focusing on what we need to do, which is playing the right way and getting ready,” Rangers coach John Tortorella said Tuesday. “We have confidence in the league and confidence in the officials that they won’t be influenced by all the whining going on.”
On Monday, the first of two off days in the first-round Eastern Conference playoff series, Boudreau claimed the Rangers were targeting the head of defenseman Mike Green, who missed the final 20 games of the regular season because of a concussion.
He was upset about New York’s tactics in a 3-2 win Sunday in Game 3 in which the Rangers crashed the net and young Capitals goalie Michal Neuvirth. Boudreau added in a radio interview that Madison Square Garden wasn’t all that loud, and that the locker rooms and benches were “horrible.”
Boudreau said officials issued warnings during the game, but then failed to call penalties when infractions occurred. New York had seven power plays Sunday; Washington had three.
“Our guys would come to the bench and say, ‘They’re warning us not to do anything. They keep warning us, but nothing’s getting accomplished,’” Boudreau said. “If you’re at home and you warn your kids not to do something and you don’t follow through with some punishment, they’re going to continue to do it, I would assume. That’s how mine were, anyway.”
Boudreau and the Capitals will have to deal with the Garden again Wednesday. If they come up short, they will head home to Washington tied 2-2 after grabbing a 2-0 series lead.
In team history, the Capitals are 1-4 in series they have led 2-0. Last year, after winning the Presidents’ Trophy, Washington was eliminated by No. 8-seed Montreal in seven games after jumping to a 3-1 series edge.
“This game is really going to swing the series,” Washington forward Brooks Laich said. “We could take a stranglehold on it, or it could be a very long series. We understand it. It’s the same situation we faced last year. We were unsuccessful last game, so we have to have a better effort.”
Neuvirth faced 35 shots Sunday and gave up three goals after allowing only one on 47 total shots in the first two games at home.
With his coach calling out the Rangers’ fans and putting the officials on alert for perceived dirty tricks, Neuvirth could have many other things to deal with beside stopping pucks.
“It was a bad game, tough loss,” Neuvirth said. “There’s still a lot of hockey left. It’s all business, and we’ve got to be ready for Wednesday.”
After playing three times in five days, the Rangers and Capitals will now have to get used to sitting around. They are finishing a two-day break, but will then have another before playing Game 5 in Washington on Saturday afternoon.
Momentum often shifts within a series, and that will certainly be the case regardless of which team wins Game 4, but it might be hard to sustain for the rest of the week.
“Can’t do anything about it,” Tortorella said. “I’d rather play, but TV kind of rules with that, doesn’t it? Both team will take advantage. We try to find the best way to use it. We have our process that we’ll go through. I’m sure they do, too.”
Top-line forward Marian Gaborik holds a lot of the Rangers’ chances to advance in his hands. The purest goal scorer on New York’s roster was limited to 22 in 62 games in a disappointing and injury-filled regular season, and he has no points in this series.
New York’s offensive difficulties are even more apparent because of the absence of second-leading scorer Ryan Callahan, who broke a leg in the final week of the regular season.
“I feel pretty good. Hopefully something will get in soon,” Gaborik said. “Just got to keep skating and drive the net and be responsible defensively and create chances.”
Seeing the Rangers grind out a win they needed appears to have served as a wakeup call to the Capitals, who again posted the best record in the Eastern Conference (48-23-11).
They know no one will remember their record if they flame out in the first round for a second straight year. Alex Ovechkin is already one Stanley Cup title and another finals appearance behind Pittsburgh rival Sidney Crosby.
Another postseason failure could even cost Boudreau his job.
“They were a desperate hockey team and we didn’t match their work ethic and their enthusiasm,” Capitals forward Matt Bradley said. “There’s really no excuse for it, but it was one game. It’s not like we played a bad game, we just didn’t play as well as we needed to.
“It’s just a matter of getting back to that work ethic and the good defensive play that we had the first two games and we’ll be fine. We’re not going to dwell on the last game. It’s up to us now to turn the tide.”
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