GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Brandon Dubinsky summarized the situation of the Rangers perfectly Thursday.
"Our backs are against the wall," he said.
The Rangers were 20 minutes from sending their best-of-7 Eastern Conference quarterfinal-round series back to Washington deadlocked at 2-2, but the top-seeded Capitals scored three times in third period to force overtime and later won on a Jason Chimera goal in the second overtime to take a 3-1 series lead and push the eighth-seeded Rangers to the brink of elimination.
The first four games of the series have featured three one-goal games and two overtime contests, both won by the Capitals. In a series this close, the Rangers could easily be the team with the 3-1 lead heading into Saturday's Game 5 (3 p.m., NBC, TSN, RDS).
If they want to win three straight and pull the upset, these are four things that must happen:
1. Henrik Lundqvist must be the better goalie -- Entering the series, the one area where the eighth-seeded Rangers appeared to have the edge was goaltending. But rookie Michal Neuvirth has put up the better numbers, going 3-1 with a 1.45 goals-against average and .942 save percentage. Lundqvist hasn't been bad -- far from it, with a 2.08 GAA and .922 save percentage -- but he'll need to find a way to be better than his counterpart over the final three games.
2. The power play must wake up -- Some of the credit has to go to the Capitals' aggressive penalty-killing unit, but the Rangers are 1-for-18 in the series and 2-for-45 in their last 13 games with the man-advantage. Shots aren't getting through and quality chances have been scarce. But just before this drought, the Rangers were in the midst of their best stretch of the season, scoring nine times in 24 chances. Marian Gaborik had his best game in weeks Wednesday and nearly won it on the power play in the second overtime. Taking advantage of Capitals' penalties is a must.
3. Resiliency -- All season, the Rangers prided themselves on rising to the occasion when adversity reared its ugly head. They overcame injuries to nearly every key player and came up with a win in their final game to get into the playoffs. Trailing 2-0 in this series, they won Game 3 after having a goal waved off at the end of the second period that would have given them a lead. After blowing a three-goal lead Wednesday, that moxie will be put to the test in an elimination game at Verizon Center.
4. Gaborik finds himself -- His goal in Game 3 was his first since March 20 and he looked more like the player who scored 42 goals last season. He skated well and showed confidence that at times has been lacking this season. Perhaps the mixture of confidence and his feeling of responsibility for the mix-up that led to Chimera's winning goal will lead to a breakout final three games of the series. If Gaborik is at his best, the Rangers will have a chance.
Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo