Garden Collapse: Rangers Hand Over Huge Lead, Lose to Capitals

The Rangers picked the wrong time to flash their charitable side

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    Getty Images
    The Washington Capitals celebrate their 4-3 double overtime win as Bryan McCabe #28 of the New York Rangers skates dejected in the foreground in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Madison Square Garden.

    It's starting to look like the story of 2011 in New York sports is that our teams simply don't know how to finish.

    The Jets were one defensive stop away from the Super Bowl, the Knicks have given away two fourth quarter leads already in the playoffs and even Mariano Rivera blew a save on Tuesday night. None of those collapses quite equals what happened to the Rangers on Wednesday night.

    They took a 3-0 lead into the third period against a Capitals team that looked more than ready to hand the game and the momentum in the series over to the home team. But the Rangers got as smug as their crowd and handed back the entire lead in the first 12 minutes of the final period.

    With the score 3-0, the crowd was chanting "Can you hear us?" to Caps coach Bruce Boudreau in reference to his comments about the quiet MSG crowd, but there wasn't much to say when the Rangers simply stopped playing in the third period. Nor was there much to scream and yell about when Marian Gaborik handed the puck to Jason Chimera in double overtime to set up the goal that put the Capitals up 3-1 in the series.

    Gaborik's play was awful, especially in light of the way he's failed to lead this offense during the entire season, but full blame for the loss can't be put onto his shoulders alone. It must be spread around just about everyone on the roster after the way they choked away a huge lead on their own ice with just 20 minutes to play.

    We can't say that everyone shares in the blame because, as always, Henrik Lundqvist played well enough to deserve a better result. The Rangers offense was absent in the final 40-plus minutes but Lundqvist kept making saves to give them chances with a breakaway stop of Alex Ovechkin looming exceedingly large in the first overtime session.

    As we learned on Tuesday night in Boston, one man can't beat an entire team. The Rangers are now on the brink of elimination because they got lazy once they were in position to win the game.

    That's inexcusable and it doesn't fit at all with a team that made it this far simply because they outworked everybody else this season. Given the way this year has gone it would not be the least bit surprising to see them come up with a series-extending victory on Saturday in D.C.

    But after Wednesday night's collapse, it wouldn't be surprising to see them roll over and die, either. Once you do it once, it's hard to convince people you won't pull the same trick again.  

    Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and he is also a contributor to Pro Football Talk.