Soon after Henrik Lundqvist, Derick Brassard and the Rangers finished off a down-to-the-wire 1-0 win over the Capitals in Game 6 Sunday at the Garden, coach John Tortorella declared Monday night's Game 7 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals as a players' game.
"I'm not sure [the quick turnaround] benefits anybody, both teams knew it going in," Tortorella said. "If I'm a player, I'd want to play right away. They don't want to listen to coaches this time of year and look at video, they want to play . . . and find out where they're at."
With this engaging series tied at three games apiece, where they will be at some point late Monday night is this: one team preparing to move on to the second round and still in the hunt for the Stanley Cup, and the other headed home for the summer.
"You make your legacy as a player in these types of situations," Tortorella said. "A number of guys last year had a blast playing in these games. Some guys handle it and some guys don't, but that's what you play for, to get yourself in this type of situation and see what type of character you have, as a player and as a team."
One of the guys with the postseason experience, and one with very little, provided what the Rangers desperately needed in Game 6. Lundqvist posted the seventh playoff shutout of his career with 27 saves and he made Brassard's second-period goal stand up.
"I felt this was going to be the type of game where there were one or two goals, tops," said Lundqvist, who made 12 saves in the third when the Caps pressured relentlessly for the tying goal. "My focus was on trying to shut it down. It definitely helps when the guys play like they did in front of you."
Brassard's long shot at 9:39 of the second period deflected in off Capitals defenseman Steve Oleksy, with Rick Nash in front. (Nash, who hasn't scored in the playoffs, was originally credited with the goal). It was the second goal of the series for Brassard, and his team-leading seventh point. The assists went to John Moore and Mats Zuccarello.
Good things will need to happen again Monday night at Verizon Center if the Rangers are to advance. The Blueshirts have lost all three road games in this series -- two of them in overtime -- and 10 of the last 11 in Washington. And goalie Braden Holtby has been outstanding against the Rangers in his short career, especially in the playoffs.
"It was a good performance by a lot of guys tonight," Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh said. "But it's not going to mean anything if we can't get the job done tomorrow night."
There's a good chance that this Game 7 will be decided by a goal, as well; that has been the difference in the last five games.
The power play continued to trouble the Rangers, who were 0-for-5, including a five-on-three. The Blueshirts have not scored in 3:17 of the series with the two-man advantage. They are 2-for-26 on the power play in the playoffs.
"When you get some chances and you don't score, it's frustrating both ways," Brian Boyle said. "We played, for the most part, the way we wanted to play: stingy defensively and we got in on the forecheck."