It isn’t only that being shorthanded five times against the NHL’s best power play creates a tightrope scenario for the Rangers against the Capitals, it’s that playing down a man so often also reduces the opportunity to work five-on-five, the Blueshirts’ particular strength.

“Forget about how we defended it; the bottom line is we can’t be down five times,” said coach John Tortorella, whose team yielded one power-play goal in Thursday’s 3-1 defeat to the Caps in Game 1 of their first-round series. “We can’t be in the box that much.

“We will not win games if we’re there.”

It’s never a must-win on the road in Game 2 of a best-of-seven, but the Rangers must not allow this afternoon’s Game 2 to become a duel of specialty teams; not with their own power play so reliably unreliable, as it was in Game 1 while going 0-for-4 and failing to score on a 56-second five-on-three.

Brad Richards revealed the Caps had changed their two-men-down penalty kill scheme from what it had been during the season, when Derek Stepan had scored from the goal line seven seconds into a five-on-three at the Garden on Mar. 24.

“We’ll make adjustments, but it caught us off guard at the start,” Richards told The Post. “We had some chances that we didn’t hit the net on, but we didn’t get the looks we wanted.”

The Rangers may bring a new look onto the ice today. Ryane Clowe, who skated yesterday for the first time since suffering what was believed a concussion in Carolina on Apr. 25, was awaiting clearance from the medical staff to rejoin the lineup. There’s no doubt he will play the moment he gets the green light.