|WSH Leads Series 2 - 1|
May 6 vs. New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden
Time: 7:30 p.m.
Radio: 1500 AM and 106.7 The Fan FM/Capitals Radio Network
Washington Capitals (26-18-3)
New York Rangers (28-13-5)
Game 3, Eastern Conference Quarterfinal Series (Caps lead series, 2-0)
After taking a 2-0 series lead with two straight wins on home ice, the Capitals head to Manhattan for the next two games of their best-of-seven Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series with the New York Rangers. Game 3 is Monday night at Madison Square Garden.
The Caps took their 2-0 series lead with Saturday’s 1-0 overtime win over the Rangers at Verizon Center in Game 2 of the set, a thriller of a game despite the lack of scoring.
“It was a game,” says Caps coach Adam Oates of Saturday’s win. “It’s exciting we won. We did a lot of good things; we’ve still got to do some stuff better. [The players] get to breathe for a day, and [Monday] we’re right back at it.”
Washington’s win was fueled by Mike Green’s game-winner on the power play in the extra session, Braden Holtby’s 24-save performance in the Washington nets, and some brilliant five-on-five play from the Capitals throughout the afternoon.
Much was made of special teams after the contest, and rightly so. The Caps scored the game-winner on the second of the two power play chances they had in the game, and the first in more than 51 minutes. Washington also snuffed out all three New York power play opportunities, including a pair of late calls that were separated by just five minutes and 35 seconds; one in the final minutes of regulation and the other in the second minute of overtime.
The Capitals teed up a total of 75 shots to New York’s 57 in the game. But each team had eight shot tries while on the power play, and the Caps had one while shorthanded for a 9-8 edge in special teams shot bids. Washington had 66 shot tries to New York’s 49 at even-strength, and the Caps led 60-49 in five-on-five and 6-3 in four-on-four play.
This against a Rangers team that was the league’s third best five-on-five team during the regular season. New York allowed just 70 five-on-five goals in 48 games during the 2012-13 regular season, tied for the fewest in the league.
“It was obviously up there,” replied Holtby, when asked where Washington’s five-on-five performance on Saturday ranked with its previous efforts in that regard in 2012-13. “ I thought we played a very sound game from start to finish and we deserved to win [Saturday] with the effort that we put in and finally got rewarded with a goal.”
“How we played tonight five-on-five, we’ll take it all day long,” declared Caps captain Alex Ovechkin. “We put the pressure on their [defense], we had lots of chances to score goals, we played in their zone and we cycled the puck. That’s how we have to play. That’s how we have to play in New York. Of course it’s going to be a different scenario because we’re going to be playing in their building, but if we play our game we’re going to be successful.”
New York and goaltender Henrik Lundqvist held the Caps off the scoresheet in five-on-five play, but it was stellar five-on-five play that set up Washington’s game-winner. The Caps’ top three forward lines hemmed the Rangers in their own end, shift after shift, before weary Rangers blueliner Ryan McDonagh tried to clear the puck but instead sent it over the glass, drawing a delay of game call and ending a marathon shift of 3:04 in length.
Mike Ribeiro sold Rangers forward Ryan Callahan on a slapshot that wasn’t coming, Callahan went down to block the phantom blast and Ribeiro dished to Green. The Caps defenseman let fly with a blast of his own, a shot that grazed the shin pad of New York penalty killer Derek Stepan and went bar-down on the stick side of Lundqvist to give the Caps a 2-0 series lead.
Down two games in the series, the Rangers are happy to be heading home. But regardless of the venue, New York knows it must find a way to score goals.
The Rangers scored the first goal of the series, a fluky five-on-five tally that banked in off Caps defenseman John Erskine’s skate in the first period of Game 1. They’ve been blanked for 111:16 and counting since then.
Lundqvist was brilliant in a losing effort in Game 2; he stopped 37 of the 38 shots he has faced. But that’s a familiar springtime story on Broadway. Lundqvist is now 9-12 in his last 21 Stanley Cup playoff starts. Besides Lundqvist starting every one of those games, the other common thread in those 21 tilts is that the Rangers have not scored more than three goals in any of them.
New York has supported Lundqvist with a combined total of 40 goals worth of offense in those last 21 Rangers playoff games.
In nine starts over two playoff series against the Rangers, Holtby has posted a 1.59 GAA and a .941 save pct. against the Blueshirts.
The Capitals know the Rangers will be desperate on Monday at MSG, and they expect to see New York’s best effort and performance of the series to date.
“It’s exciting,” says Caps center Jay Beagle. “Obviously we’re playing well right now. We’re sticking to our structure, and that’s what we have to focus on going into New York. It’s obviously a tough building to play in. Their fans are going to be fired up. The team is going to come out hard, too. In the first five or 10 minutes, they always come out really hard in their building. We’ve got to be ready to match that and come out hard.”
“Obviously we know they’re going to make a push,” says Holtby. “It’s a big game for both of us. Our game plan stays the same. It’s obviously a road game; were going to try to simplify everything even more. We’ve been successful on the road this year. I think we’re going to take those aspects. We know how to play in that building and we’ll be ready.”
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