With their head coach suspended for Game 6 and watching from a luxury box like Mussolini on the balcony, the Rangers season now appears to be heading for a similar fate as the Italian dictator.
After losing to the Caps 5-3 at Madison Square Garden today, the Rangers face a do-or-die Game 7 at the Verizon Center on Tuesday night.
The Rangers came out strong in the first period, showing more life and energy in the first 5 minutes than they did in all of Game 5, but a couple of bad turnovers led to a Jurcina goal to give the Caps a 1-0 lead. The Rangers came right back and tied the game on a power play goal (not a typo) by Scott Gomez just over a minute later.
The Garden was alive, but it was short-lived. While Paul Mara was serving his second penalty of the period, Caps defenseman Mike Green finally got on the score sheet with a goal to give the Caps the lead. Three minutes later, former Ranger Tom Poti got his second goal of the series to give the Caps a 3-1 lead. Poti had a goal and three assists in this game, adding insult to injury for Ranger fans, who booed Poti unmercifully during his time in NY.
A two goal deficit just seemed to take the life right out of them for the 2nd period. Going without a shot on goal for the first half of the period, the Rangers at that point seemed resigned to losing the game and taking their chances on a Game 7 in DC. The Caps added goals by Victor Kozlov and Alex Ovechkin in the second, and took a 5-1 lead into the third.
The Rangers showed signs of life in the 3rd period, getting another power play goal from Ryan Callahan during a two man advantage, but it was too little too late at that point. Marc Staal finished the scoring with his first goal of the series with 5 seconds remaining in the game to cap off an otherwise brutal day for him.
Blair Betts was knocked out of the game by a vicious elbow from Capitals thug Donald Brashear, who wasn't penalized for the hit but was penalized for roughing along with Mara, who came to Betts' defense. Betts' absence was sorely missed by the PK unit, which surendered two PP goals to the Caps.
All in all, there were few positives in this game for the Rangers. Sean Avery returned to the lineup, and did play well, skating alongside Scott Gomez, who also played a strong game. Callahan and Brandon Dubinsky also continued their strong play in the series, but its a daunting task to beat a team like the Capitals when so few players on the roster are contributing.
As this series has progressed, there has been much talk about the Rangers possibly calling up a player to get their offense going. Now it may be a necessity. The Capitals offense is clicking, and the team the Rangers are putting on the ice just can't generate enough scoring to keep up.
Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist was not sharp today, and for the second consecutive game, sat out the third period in favor of backup Steve Valiquette. Nine goals surrendered in the last 4 periods for Lundy, if he doesn't get it figured out for Game 7, summer will arrive for the Rangers at around 9:45 Tuesday night.