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Recap: Rangers Hang on to Even Things at One Apiece Behind Fast Start

The Washington Capitals got off to a slow start against the New York Rangers in Game 2, and it cost them as the Rangers skated off to a 3-2 decision to even the series at a game apiece.

Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

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The Washington Capitals found themselves down a goal less than a minute into their Game 2 contest against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Saturday afternoon.  That would be a bad sign for the Caps, and when the Rangers scored a late power play goal in the first period, the situation looked more bleak.  Even though they evened the tilt in the ice in the second and third periods, and the Caps got goals from Evgeny Kuznetsov and Alex Ovechkin, it was not enough against goalie Henrik Lundqvist.

Here's Saturday afternoon's Plus/Minus:

  • Plus: Relentlessness.  The last two minutes of pressure in regulation was an impressive push by the Capitals.  It was part of a last 40 minutes in which the Capitals played the game they wanted to play more than the Rangers were able to play in their favored style.  If that last two minutes indicated anything, it would be that this will be a long series.
  • Minus: The 12:30 start.  What is it with this team and noon (or thereabout) starts?  Sure, the Rangers were going to come out hard, and they did.  The Caps really did not have an answer for that, despite having to know it was coming, and but for the superb play of Braden Holtby in goal might have been run out of the building in the first 20 minutes.

Ten more notes on the game:

  • If you are game planning, shot-rebound-shot-goal would be just how you would like to start...if you were the Caps.  Unfortunately, that is how the Rangers started, scoring the game's first goal 38 seconds into the contest.   This has been a continuing problem for the Caps against the Rangers this season, falling behind early.  They were outscored in the first periods of games, 7-2, in the regular season in four games against the Rangers.  They held New York off the board in their Game 1 win, the only time so far this season that they shut out the Rangers in the first period.  In four of six games against the Rangers this season the Caps allowed two goals.
  • The Caps went 11:40 of the first period without a shot on goal.  Let me put that another way.  The Caps went 11:40 with just one shot attempt (a miss by Curtis Glencross at 12:51).  Put another way, the Rangers had 17 shot attempts in that 8:22 of ice time between Caps' shots on goal.  In way, getting out of the period down 2-0 was not as bad as it could have been.
  • That first period might have been the most dominant an opponent played against the Capitals this season.  New York had 28 shot attempts to six for the Capitals and outshot them, 15-4.  Having to kill three penalties had something to do with that, to be sure, but the Rangers had their foot to the floor the entire period.
  • One cannot know what the turning point moments are in a series until after some time has passed to look back.  But while folks might look to the Henrik Lundqvist diving save on Alex Ovechkin from point blank range 4:22 into the game, the turning point might have come from some slush along the side boards that slowed down a sliding puck just long enough for Dan Boyle to run it down before it crossed the blue line on a Ranger power play.  Boyle flung the puck at the net, Rick Nash leaned out of the way, and Braden Holtby could only watch as it flew by to make it 2-0 with less than five minutes in the first period.  The Caps might otherwise have gotten out of a difficult period only one goal down.  As it was, it ended the Capitals' streak of shorthanded situations killed to start the playoffs at 17.  They are still 19-for-20, tied for first in the post season (95.0 percent, with Ottawa).
  • The second period was a mirror image of the first for the Caps.  They outshot the Rangers, 16-12, out attempted them, 30-19, and outscored them, 1-0.  The difference?  No power plays for the Capitals.
  • Then the Caps got a power play six minutes into the third period, and failing to convert cost them.  On the ensuing shift, following the expiration of an interference penalty to Derick Brassard, it would be Brassard sneaking behind the defense.  In one of those moments where the hockey gods just tease you, a pass from Martin St. Louis to Brassard was muffled by Jay Beagle and just out of the reach of Matt Niskanen with enough momentum to reach Brassard.  Even with that, Braden Holtby got a big piece of the point-blank shot from Brassard, but not enough as it trickled through his legs for an insurance goal.
  • Alex Ovechkin's goal was really "The Full Ovechkin."  Recognizing a chance to get out of the zone with speed he gave Joel Ward a lane to get him the puck.  Ovechkin took the pass in full stride at the red line, burst between Ranger defensemen Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh just inside the Ranger blue line, fought through both defenders' attempts to blunt his progress, and then as he was falling to the ice whipped a wrist shot top far corner over Lundqvist's blocker.  That makes six games against the Rangers this season, goals in six games against the Rangers this season.
  • Late game heroics would not come to pass for the Caps, but not for lack of effort.  The Rangers recorded their last shot attempt of the game with 2:54 left in regulation.  After that, the Caps recorded nine shot attempts of their own.  The frustrating part there, though, was that only three of those shot attempts were on goal.  They had six missed shots.
  • Speaking of attempts, after that 28-6 edge for the Rangers in the first period, the Caps had a 54-35 edge in attempts (28-20 in shots) over the last 40 minutes.
  • The Caps and their power play opportunities continue to be an issue.  Today they had one chance (unsuccessful).  That makes 16 power play opportunities in nine games.  Six teams have fewer, but four of them are out of the playoffs, and two of them have played fewer games (Anaheim: 15 chances in five games; Minnesota: 15 chances in seven games).

And now, this...

Game highlights: