- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 3, 2012

By the time midnight rolled around of Game 3 of the second-round series, the Washington Capitals and New York Rangers were on fumes. Troy Brouwer said he and his teammates drew from the crowd.

“The momentum swings, I think, are more mentally draining than anything,” he said. “You’re held in your zone for a minute or two and you’re nervous whether you can get it out or not, or you’re creating a lot, and you get good opportunities in the offensive zone, so those mental emotions are what really drain you more than anything.”

The Caps also were fueled by quick snacks. Alex Ovechkin downed an energy bar on the bench, and players were doing plenty to keep the energy level up.

“We’re eating, we’re hydrating. You have fruit, you have white rice with soy sauce. You got a little bit of everything,” defenseman Karl Alzner said. “It’s just do whatever you need to do. A lot of guys taping sticks, changing gear. Everything’s really getting wet and heavy, and you want to get a cool down somehow.”

Brouwer said it was like being a kid, except not a pizza party.

“We had orange slices and banana slices coming around,” he said. “Power bars and things like that to make sure we were keeping our energy up.”

Both teams got the day off from practice Thursday and will practice Friday in preparation for Saturday’s Game 4 at 12:30 at Verizon Center. Only extra goalies Tomas Vokoun, Michal Neuvirth, Dany Sabourin and spare defensemen Cameron Schilling and Sean Collins skated at the Caps’ practice facility.

McDonagh, iron man

Ryan McDonagh took a huge shoulder-to-shoulder hit from Matt Hendricks in the first overtime Wednesday night and never missed a shift. That’s a good thing for New York, which leaned on him heavily.

McDonagh skated 60 shifts in the triple-overtime thriller for a game-high 53:31.

“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.”

Meanwhile, Stu Bickel was plastered to the bench. Even as the game became a marathon, his final shift was in the second period, and the 25-year-old finished with 3:24 of ice time. Tortorella said that was a conscious decision to roll five defensemen instead of going back to Bickel.

McDonagh didn’t even notice that he played more than 50 minutes.

“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,” he said. “It’s not really exhaustion when you win a game. You feel like all that effort paid off. That’s the only way to put it.”

Carlson makes magic

It’s hard to beat Henrik Lundqvist without screens and traffic, something the Capitals found out in Games 1 and 2. But defenseman John Carlson managed to do so for Washington’s only goal in Game 3, corralling the puck off Rangers defenseman Marc Staal and roofing it.

“He made a nice play on that goal. He kept it going,” coach Dale Hunter said. “He’s been jumping up in the play a lot…. He’s been doing the job.”

• Stephen Whyno can be reached at swhyno@washingtontimes.com.

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