Monday night’s Game 2 between the New York Rangers and Washington Capitals reversed some of what was seen in the first game and evened the series at one apiece.
In Game 1, the Capitals made close acquaintance with Henrik Lundqvist’s most reliable allies, the goal posts, but on Monday night Rangers defenseman Michael Del Zotto rang two shots off the iron in the third period, which would have made all the difference for the Blueshirts in their 3-2 loss.
Alexander Ovechkin scored the game-winning power play goal with 7:27 remaining, despite his surprisingly low 13:36 of ice time. With the holding penalty called on Rangers forward Brad Richards, Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom found Ovechkin off the faceoff, who sniped it past a screened Henrik Lundqvist.
The Rangers played a solid game on the forecheck, but they simply got beat at their own game. New York was outplayed in the shot blocking department, a category that has made its defense notorious. Washington stopped 24 Ranger shots while the Blueshirts deflected only 14.
Capitals goalie Braden Holtby rebounded from his rocky Game 1 performance with 22 saves Monday night, but while the Rangers held the puck nicely deep in their own zone, their weakness was their inability to generate traffic in front of Holtby. The Blueshirts scored their second game-tying goal 6:58 into the third period on the power play off a tip-in from Ryan Callahan, who stood in front of the net. New York, however, failed to fill the open patches of ice in front of the crease for the rest of the game.
This absence of offense in the slot is starting to become noticeable in the Rangers’ primary scoring asset, Marian Gaborik, who hasn’t registered a goal in 7 games. Gaborik picked up an assist on Brad Richards’ goal which made it 2-1 with 43 seconds left in the first period, but Gaborik again became dormant down the stretch.
Mike Knuble and Jason Chimera of the Capitals gave the Rangers an early uphill battle with goals of their own. Knuble scored with 12:20 into the first period following an offensive-zone giveaway by Rangers defenseman Stu Bickel, which led to a 3-on-2 rush.
Later in the period, the Rangers sent Chris Kreider to the penalty box to serve a too many men on the ice minor penalty. After New York killed it off, Kreider sprang out of the box and was stuffed on a breakaway by Holtby. The Capitals quickly recovered and dumped the puck into the Rangers’ zone, forcing Lundqvist to play the puck behind his net. Chimera chased Lundqvist and instead flipped the puck in front of the net, which was then redirected into the goal, putting Washington up by 2.
Del Zotto re-emerged with one of his better performances of the postseason. With 21:13 of ice time, he registered two assists and four shots, not including the two that hit the post.
Brian Boyle returned after missing 3 games due to a mild concussion sustained in the series against the Ottawa Senators. Boyle was not expected in the lineup until minutes before the game, and proved himself to be more useful at center than Steve Eminger, a defenseman by trade, at the forward position.
The Capitals are content with heading back to Washington tied in the series, but the Rangers still have the advantage. New York controlled the puck for most of the game; the Blueshirts just need to watch themselves before taking reckless penalties.
Game 3 is set to take place Wednesday, 7:30 p.m. at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C.
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