WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Wins don’t come easy in the playoffs, and Ryan McDonagh’s bruised and battered face was a good reminder of that Monday night.
The 23-year-old had a massive welt swelling above his right cheekbone and a bloody cut above his eye, a parting gift from Washington Capitals star forward Alex Ovechkin after his questionable hit in the first period.
Not that any cosmetic setbacks were of much importance to McDonagh as he balanced the team’s MVP Broadway Hat atop his head following the New York Rangers' series-clinching 5-0 rout of the Capitals in Game 7.
“It started a little bit slow for us, and the team I think, but we felt like we had more to give and as it went on we got more confidence,” McDonagh said of himself and defensive partner Dan Girardi. “We definitely stayed within our structure a lot better, which helped us to be that much more successful.”
McDonagh, who played 23:15, and Girardi, who played 21:08, were absolutely vital to the Rangers in containing Ovechkin and his linemates Marcus Johansson and Nicklas Backstrom on the Capitals’ top unit.
Ovechkin was held off the score sheet for the last five games of the series, the longest drought of his NHL playoff career. Backstrom and Johansson combined for only three points during that span.
“Obviously, they played good on us, but we should still score goals,” Backstrom said. “But I can just talk for myself, my effort. That’s embarrassing.”
The Rangers’ top pairing became particularly essential with the team’s loss of cornerstone defenseman Marc Staal, who was scratched for six of seven games.
Staal returned in Game 3 after missing two months with an injured right eye, but had to pull himself out of the lineup before Game 4 with the injury issues cropping back up again.
In his years as a Ranger, Staal has often been deployed against Ovechkin’s line, but McDonagh filled that shutdown role with Girardi nicely.
“Mac and [Girardi] did a great job shutting down their top line,” said Arron Asham, who notched the game’s first goal with 6:41 remaining in the first.
Coach John Tortorella also lauded the play of both players after the game, praising McDonagh’s toughness in particular after he gutted through the game following Ovechkin’s hit.
“A big part of being a tough team in the playoffs is taking a hit to make a play. Danny (Girardi)and (McDonagh) got banged around a little bit, but they made the plays,” Tortorella said. “That's how it's going to be. [Bruins forward Milan] Lucic is going to be coming after them in Boston, a number of people are going to be coming after them. That's the way you have to play. Take hits to make plays. Hopefully, we can find our way.”