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Rangers' scoring woes catching up to them

Washington Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom (19), of Sweden,

Washington Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom (19), of Sweden, tries to get the puck past New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist (30). (May 5, 2012) Credit: AP

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Is it any wonder the Rangers are facing another best-of-three playoff series starting Monday night? The offense has been in a deep blue funk.

Of the teams remaining in the playoffs, the Rangers have scored the fewest goals per game, 2.07, and in the last seven games (including the three-overtime victory over the Capitals), they have 14 goals.

The Rangers have won four of those games because Henrik Lundqvist has allowed only 12 goals, with a 1.53 goals-against average and .939 save percentage.

Creating more offense is critical if the Rangers are to advance to the Eastern Conference finals, especially after managing only 20 shots on Braden Holtby in Game 4, a 3-2 loss in Washington on Saturday.

"There's a lot of different things you can do. It depends on what's in front of you," coach John Tortorella said Sunday. "We had the puck a lot, but as far as quality scoring chances, I didn't think we developed enough. We've got to figure out a way to get more pucks in the blue, I thought that was probably the weakest part of our game, not finishing up plays."

The issue isn't limited to one game, however. After scoring four goals in Game 1 against the Ottawa Senators, the Rangers have scored two or fewer in eight of the other 10 games.

"That series was more a hatred toward each other with some of the hits that were happening, things like that," captain Ryan Callahan said. "This series has its own character, the way the teams are defending and how hard it is to create chances and how close the games have been. It's similar, but two different styles, I guess."

The seventh-seeded Capitals are willing to block shots, get in shooting lanes and backcheck, in the style of the top-seeded Rangers.

"Everybody's backchecking. It's clogged up," said Marian Gaborik, whose point streak is at four games, with goals in the last two. "We have to get bodies in front and drive the net. That's how Artie [Anisimov] scored."

Michael Del Zotto echoed that sentiment. "You're not going to get a lot of pretty plays . . . There's not going to be tic-tac-toe plays," he said. "Dirty goals are what's going to win us games."

The Rangers did not solve Holtby in two power-play opportunities in Game 4 and are 7-for-45 (15.6 percent) in 11 playoff games. Several Rangers said the 22-year-old netminder needs to be tested.

"If we looked and had 25 chances and 40 shots a night, maybe you start getting frustrated, but I don't think we've done that," Brad Richards said. "I don't think he's had to stand on his head too often."

History isn't on the Rangers' side in Game 5s; they are 23-32.

In the last series, the Rangers lost to the Senators in Game 5 at Madison Square Garden, 2-0, as Craig Anderson stopped 41 shots to make Jason Spezza's first-period goal stand up, but won the next two games to advance. The Sens were the eighth seed.

"At this point, you throw the seeding out," Brian Boyle said. "We have home ice. That's all the seeding dictates."

"We have to win it," Callahan said of Game 5. "It's a big game, especially coming back home. We have to make sure we concentrate on our start, take the crowd's energy and make sure that our first 10 minutes are there."

The opportunity to cash in begins tonight.

With AP


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