Updated: 12:37 a.m.
The Rangers' Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Capitals hasn't featured the brutal fights and the violent scrums of Round 1 -- a nasty battle with the bruising Senators -- but the series has not lacked for intensity.
And there appears to still be some ill will between the two teams.
"I think there might be a little of a hate factor," defenseman Dan Girardi said. "It might not seem like that, but obviously both teams hate each other. We want to make it to the next round, so do they, and there are a lot of great hits out there. Guys are doing what it takes to win. Just because there aren't a lot of scrums and all that doesn't mean we don't hate each other."
Eastern Conference Playoffs
Get all the news and commentary on the Rangers-Capitals matchup on ESPN.com's matchup page.
• Burnside: Series preview
• Predictions: Experts | You tell us!
• Playoffs schedule | Cross Checks blog
• Rangers blog | ESPN New York
The series may be less vicious than their seven-game set against the Senators, but it certainly appears to be more evenly matched.
All but one game in this series -- Game 1, a 3-1 win for the Rangers -- has been decided by one goal, including the epic triple-overtime thriller in Game 3. That's nothing new for the Capitals -- including Monday's 3-2 Rangers win, 11 of their 12 games this postseason have been one-goal matches -- or the Rangers, who have yet to dominate a series despite their top seed in the Eastern Conference.
"I think it's almost a higher [competitive] level in this series," defenseman Ryan McDonagh told ESPNNewYork.com. "There may not have been as many fists and hits, but the scoreboard is really all that counts. These are so much tighter of games."
Said Washington's Brooks Laich: "There [are] a lot of hits. It's a physical series. Just because there hasn't been a fight, people might think it's not as intense, but there's not a lot of space out there."
Perhaps the most controversial and contentious play of an otherwise pretty straight-ahead series was Alex Ovechkin's questionable hit on Girardi. The star forward left his skates to nail Girardi in Game 4, although the principal point of contact was disputed. Although Girardi said Ovechkin hit him in the head, Ovechkin and Caps coach Dale Hunter defended it as a shoulder hit.
The league clearly sided with the latter. Ovechkin did not face a hearing with VP of player safety Brendan Shanahan and avoided any supplementary discipline.
Girardi declined to comment on the matter when asked after the Rangers' morning skate on Monday.
"I really don't have anything to say about that," he said.
*Apparently no one is immune from the hostility. For an amusing anecdote about Caps owner Ted Leonsis' recent visit to MSG, check this out.