Rangers won't swagger into Game 6

Rangers coach John Tortorella says his squad won't be over-confident heading into Game 6 against...

Rangers coach John Tortorella says his squad won't be over-confident heading into Game 6 against the Capitals on Wednesday. (Reuters file photo)

TERRY KOSHAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:39 PM ET

NEW YORK - John Tortorella is loathe to give up secrets during the Stanley Cup playoffs.

The New York Rangers coach really doesn't like to say much, if he can help it, but made it clear Tuesday that his club will not think about anything beyond Game 6 of the Eastern Conference semifinal against the Washington Capitals.

"We won't be over-confident," Tortorella said after the Rangers held a brief optional practice at Madison Square Garden. "This team doesn't get over-confident."

The Rangers haven't made it to the conference final since 1997, but that 15-year absence would end Wednesday night if the Rangers beat the Capitals at the Verizon Center in Washington and win the best-of-seven series in six games. And that chance to move on without worrying about Game 7 exists only because Brad Richards tied Game 5 with 7.6 seconds remaining Monday and defenceman Marc Staal won it in overtime.

Rangers forward Brandon Prust said he got up Tuesday morning and watched the highlights of the Richards and Staal goals a couple more times, a few more than he usually would. Perhaps Prust had to remind himself through the video that good results in the playoffs don't happen unless there is an unrelenting amount of hard work.

As much as the Rangers don't want to glide on the success of Game 5, they don't want to disregard completely the things they did to win. If they do, it stands to reason that both teams will be heading back to Manhattan for a seventh game Saturday night.

The Rangers will try to capture the spirit they had in the first round, when they were down 3-2 after five games versus the Ottawa Senators but won the last two games of the series to move on.

"Finish -- it's a big word," Prust said. "It's always difficult to finish a team off. When you have that mentality, do or die, it's when most teams play their best. We have to be ready for that."

As much as Tortorella insisted his team wouldn't be strutting into D.C., Capitals coach Dale Hunter, as he has done since taking over behind the Caps bench last November, was playing the simple, nothing-to-see-here card.

In other words, don't sweat it, boys.

"We'll bounce back," Hunter said. "We have to."

The Caps have done it before.

Ten times in their history they have been down 3-2 in a series, and eight times they lost, with five of those losses coming in Game 6. But they've also gone on to win a series twice, in 1988 against Philadelphia when Hunter was an instrumental player in the organization, and again three years ago against the Rangers.

And they've already knocked off the No. 2-seeded Boston Bruins in these playoffs, so resolve isn't something they have to fight for.

"A lot of (composure) comes from Dale," Capitals forward Brooks Laich said. "He's not panicking. He says stuff happens. Good breaks, bad breaks. It's how you react to it. And we move on. We've been down before and come back in series. We're going to keep moving forward. Nothing changes for us. We approach the game the same way we always do -- come excited to play."

About that whole idea of not being over-confident? Tortorella made sure to discuss it with his players.

"It's about backing up these big wins," Richards said. "We didn't do a good job coming out after Game 3. We want to at least give ourselves a much better chance, especially at the start. We know they are going to come hard.

"We want to close it out. We want to get this over with. It's a lot easier said than done. We want to have the mindset that we are as desperate as they are, and we want to bring that right into the first shift and try to get this over with right away. It doesn't mean it's going to happen, and if it doesn't, it is not the end of the world. But we have to have that mentality."

terry.koshan@sunmedia.ca

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