Capitals vs. Rangers: Game 4 pivotal for both teams

The Rangers took Game 3 with a tight 4-3 victory. Photo: Associated Press

The Washington Capitals hit the ice for their morning skate Wednesday vowing to spend more time there - rather than the penalty box - during a pivotal Game 4 match-up with the New York Rangers.

The Capitals have spent plenty of time killing penalties during the first three games of their series with the Rangers, which they lead 2-1 after dropping Game 3 at Madison Square Garden on Monday night. And, despite killing those penalties at a rate of 92 percent, the Capitals know that a trend like that isn't sustainable if they want to advance.

"(The) last time we came in this barn and took a lot of penalties, it got their fans into it," defenseman John Erskine said. "We have to be more disciplined and watch our sticks."

Washington enjoyed a day off in Manhattan on Tuesday, and the rest seems to already be paying off. The benefits may be felt most by forward Brooks Laich, who skated at practice for the first time since early April. The veteran center hasn't played since April 4, when he was injured in a game against the New York Islanders.

However, any time frame for Laich, who scored just one goal this season before going down with his injury, to return to the lineup is unknown.

"It's the playoffs and I want to play," Laich said. "I always say I want to help the team, but I don't think I'm physically able to do it right now."

Despite having a series edge after winning both Games 1 and 2 at home, the team believes that winning Game 4 is pivotal. A loss squares the series and boils a trip to the Eastern Conference semifinals down to a best-of-3.

A win, though, gives them the chance to close out their first round series at home in Game 5 on Friday.

"That's the ideal circumstance," defenseman Karl Alzner said. "We want to split here. If we give them two, you give them all the hope in the world."