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Rangers' playoff rookies are effective

Ryan McDonagh #27 of the New York Rangers

Ryan McDonagh #27 of the New York Rangers gets the stick up on Alex Ovechkin #8 of the Washington Capitals in Game One of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Verizon Center. (April 13, 2011) Photo Credit: Getty Images

WASHINGTON -- Two hours, 27 minutes and seven seconds.

That's the total time of the Rangers' Game 1 loss to the Capitals, and that's how much playoff time the seven Rangers youngsters who went into the game without any NHL postseason experience now have under their belts.

For Michael Sauer, Ryan McDonagh, Derek Stepan, Brian Boyle, Brandon Prust, Mats Zuccarello and Matt Gilroy, that ice time hardly makes them graybeards. But being in the spotlight for Wednesday's 2-1 overtime loss can only help them when the puck drops for Game 2 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals Friday night at Verizon Center, with the Rangers trailing 1-0 in the series.

"Overall with the young guys, I was happy," coach John Tortorella said after practice Thursday. "Some guys in certain parts of the game, you could see there was a little anxiousness. That's to be expected. This is why we are happy that we're in; it gets some of the young group some experience, and they'll be better the next game. They're going to have to be, because they're a big part of our club . . . and they will be."

From an offensive standpoint, Gilroy had the most productive debut, scoring early in the third period to provide a 1-0 lead, but the others contributed.

McDonagh, 21, finished with the third-most minutes on the team -- 27:02 -- sent two shots on goal and blocked two shots. "It was the most fun I've had playing hockey, even being in a road building," he said. "The fans were so loud . . . It was a packed house. They were cheering for every big hit and each scoring opportunity left and right."

Sauer, 23, McDonagh's partner on defense, enjoyed the atmosphere ("just to see all the red was something") but vowed to improve. "It was tough coming out the way we did. We could have been better," said Sauer, reflecting on the Capitals' dominance in the first period. "Then we get the goal, and having them come back was tough.

"I know I can elevate my game. We all can elevate our game and we can give ourselves a better opportunity to win Friday," said Sauer, who played 26:38 and blocked three shots. "We'll know more of what's coming, but for the first time being in, that was a good experience, and tomorrow will be a good test for us."

Brian Boyle, who had three hits and two shots in 23:03, wasn't starry-eyed either. "There are no moral victories from the game, but we can't get down,'' he said. "We did a lot of good things, but they have a lot of talent and this is going to be a tough series. We just want to go and frustrate them by playing hard and physical and wear them down, and take advantage of our chances."

Ruslan Fedotenko, whose first playoff game was as a rookie with the Flyers against the Sabres on April 11, 2001 (he's played 83 since), recalled that he settled down in his second game. "Playing that first game helped me in the second," he said. "They were excited, they were anxious and it's a lot of pressure, but I thought they did good. As a whole team, we didn't play our best game. I'm expecting the second game will be much better for everybody."

Captain Chris Drury, the only Ranger with more playoff experience than Fedotenko (131 games), summed up the challenge. "I think it's positive to get that out of the way," he said. "But in playoff hockey, it's how hard you choose to play. We lost, so we've got to play harder. Simple equation."

New York Sports