This frustrating series mirrors series against Sens

Linesman Bryan Pancich #94 separates Kyle Turris #7

Linesman Bryan Pancich #94 separates Kyle Turris #7 of the Ottawa Senators and Ryan Callahan #24 of the New York Rangers after a second period Rangers goal. (April 26, 2012) (Credit: Getty Images)

WASHINGTON

A 2-2 series after a pair of one-goal losses. Plenty of frustration over a possibly suspendable hit and borderline calls. Very, very little in the way of momentum from game to game.

This is the Rangers' daily existence during this postseason, with this second-round series against the Capitals imitating the first-round series against the Senators. Washington has its two 3-2 wins in regulation, with late power-play goals; Ottawa had its wins in overtime, also by 3-2.

You know how that first-round series turned out. This one, in which every game except perhaps the opener could have been decided in an overtime or three, is shaping up exactly the same. The Rangers win with Henrik Lundqvist and opportunistic plays, the Caps with big moments from their offensively gifted players.

Saturday's Rangers loss in Game 4 could have gone either way, especially as it pertains to the officiating. Brian Boyle had his stick chopped in half near the Caps' blue line with the score tied at 2 late. Less than a minute later, Carl Hagelin whacked John Carlson in the hand. Carlson dropped his unbroken stick and Hagelin went to the box.

Then Ryan Callahan got mildly yanked down trying to clear a puck, starting the play that ended with Mike Green's winner with 5:48 to play.

"It's playoff hockey. You've got to control your emotions," Callahan said. "You just keep moving forward to try and get the equalizer. We didn't end up getting it."

The Rangers' ability to control everything has gotten them this far. They weren't much in control of the opening 20 minutes of Game 4, though, as the Capitals overwhelmed everyone except Lundqvist with speed and forechecking and some golden scoring chances.

But the Rangers pushed back after that lousy first, setting up a defining third period with a couple of goals off Washington mistakes.

Six of the Rangers' 11 playoff games have been tied heading to the third; eight of the Caps' 11 have been.

Both teams looked for one big play, as they did in Game 2 when the Rangers tied it at 2 early in the third period. In that one, Brad Richards got whistled for holding for a quick grab of Carlson, who embellished the call well. Carlson did it again Saturday, tossing his stick down as if it were aflame. Coincidentally, it happened as Hagelin and Marian Gaborik were breaking down the ice.

There's also the matter of Alex Ovechkin, whose skates were off the ice when he laid out Dan Girardi in the second period. Ovechkin was given a charging minor. A league source told Newsday Saturday that it is unlikely that Brendan Shanahan, the NHL's VP of player safety, will further discipline Ovechkin for the hit.

That won't quell the private fuming going on in the Rangers' dressing room, which began in Game 2 of the Senators series after Matt Carkner pounded away at Boyle and drew a one-game suspension, while Hagelin's elbow to Daniel Alfredsson's head got a three-game ban.

Tempers were short Saturday, and being repressed.

"I'm not going to comment on the refs," defenseman Marc Staal said. "I'll say something I might regret."

John Tortorella, already fined $50,000 this season for comments about the officiating, stayed mum. When asked about the refereeing, "no" was all he said before departing the podium and the Verizon Center.

But not for the final time this season. The Rangers will be back, just as they knew they would return to Ottawa after letting Game 4 slip away in that series.

The Rangers are frustrated, just as they were after Game 4 (and Game 5) in that opening-round series.

Nothing has beaten them yet, though, throughout this long, adventurous season, and nothing has lasted too long in their minds from game to game.

That's the good news.

The bad? This series still has a long way to go.

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