Rangers forward Chris Kreider grabs a hold of Alex Ovechkin during Game 2, but a Blueshirts victory in Game 3 would really give them control of the series.
WASHINGTON — Chris Kreider literally put Alex Ovechkin in a headlock in the first period of Saturday afternoon’s 3-2 win in Game 2 to even this second-round playoff series, and on Monday night in Washington, the Blueshirts will go for the full nelson against the Capitals.
The Rangers have won 11 consecutive Game 3s on the road dating back to the 1992 Patrick Division Finals against the Pittsburgh Penguins and have gone on to take 14 of the last 17 playoff series in which they’ve done so.
Saturday they erased the bad taste of Thursday night’s last-second 2-1 defeat in Game 1 at the Garden, and on Monday night they return to their comfort zone on the road. It’s where they won a league-high 28 games in the regular season (28-11-2) — including a 2-0 record at the Verizon Center, outscoring the Caps 7-3.
“Going on the road into their building for the first game, you want to obviously get started on the right foot, go in there and win a game,” defenseman Marc Staal said Sunday afternoon. “They did in our building, and now it’s our chance to try and do the same here.”
Coach Alain Vigneault, who stewed on that Game 1 defeat and challenged his team to respond, got the best period of the playoffs out of his players in Saturday’s first period to record the victory.
But there were breakdowns in the second that forced Henrik Lundqvist to make several highlight-reel saves. Ovechkin broke loose for a second straight match, and the final moments of regulation again were agonizing despite the win.
“Definitely with my coaches we’re going to get together and take a look how we can drop their chances down, and the quality of their chances,” Vigneault admitted. “At the same time I thought we had some real good looks. We had quite a few chances.”
When defenseman Kevin Klein — who had his arm broken by an Ovechkin shot on March 11 — laid down to block another blast by the Great Eight in Game 2, Vigneault saw an example of what it will take for the Rangers to win.
“If you look at that play, Kleiner blocks the shot, but Ovechkin still gets to the puck and still gets a scoring chance,” Vigneault said. “That’s what we’re up against. … Our will is going to have to be very high in all aspects … to be able to win (Monday).”
Mats Zuccarello (head injury, out indefinitely) is not on this trip for Games 3 and 4, as expected. The team has no update on his condition… Vigneault would not discuss whether he will make any lineup changes for Game 3: “I haven’t met my guys yet. I’ve got an idea, but I’ve got to share it with them first.”
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