Postgame Notebook: Capitals 4, Rangers 0
New Paint Job On The Series –
Heading into Wednesday’s Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal Series between the Capitals and the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden, there was plenty of talk about how Washington needed to solve New York goaltender Henrik Lundqvist to give itself a fighting chance in the series.
That sort of talk was understandable, given that the Caps had pumped 44 straight shots on goal – and countless others “off” goal – against Lundqvist without lighting the red lamp. The stalwart New York goaltender had not allowed a goal in 78:18, dating back to the third period of Game 1.
The Capitals answered the challenge, getting two first period goals on Lundqvist in Game 3, and taking the crowd out of the contest. The Caps got another tally in the second, earning the first lead of more than two goals for any team in this series.
Meanwhile, at the other end of the ice, 20-year-old Russian rookie Simeon Varlamov held the New York shooters at bay. He pitched a 4-0 shutout to breathe life into the Caps in this series, and to turn the question of which team is struggling offensively back on the Rangers.
After scoring four goals on just 21 shots on goal in Game 1 against Caps goalie Jose Theodore, New York has now mustered only one goal on 57 shots in two games against Varlamov, who entered the series with but six games worth of regular season NHL experience. Varlamov has blanked the Rangers for the last 112:16 of the series.
Varlamov’s shutout was the first playoff whitewash by a Washington goaltender since Olie Kolzig blanked the Tampa Bay Lightning on April 10, 2003. Before Varlamov shutout the Rangers on Monday, Kolzig had authored each of Washington’s last six playoff shutouts.
Varlamov joined Bob Mason as just the second rookie goaltender ever to pitch a postseason shutout for the Capitals. Mason blanked the New York Islanders on April 11, 1987 in the first playoff shutout in Caps team history.
Finally, the Caps’ Monday night shutout over the Rangers represented the largest winning margin ever in a playoff shutout from a Washington team.
Varlamov’s shutout was the 10th in Caps playoff history. It came one game after Lundqvist earned the 10th shutout against Washington in its playoff history.
Russian Influence –
Washington’s heavy Russian contingent made its imprint on Game 3. Varlamov made 33 saves to earn the first shutout of his NHL career.
had two goals and three points, a single-game playoff best for him. His two first-period strikes gave the Caps their first lead of the series since they briefly (for 69 seconds) held an advantage in Game 1.
had a pair of assists and made a terrific diving pokecheck to thwart a breakaway bid from New York’s Lauri Korpikoski in the second period.
Sergei Fedorov recorded an assist on Brooks Laich
’s second period power play goal, recording the 169th Stanley Cup playoff point of his NHL career in the process. Fedorov ranks 17th on the league’s all-time list in that department, just two points behind Peter Forsberg (171) for 16th on the all-time ledger.
Other Efforts –
Varlamov’s shutout and Semin’s two goals dominated the scoresheet, but other Caps were key performers in Monday’s Game 3 win at Madison Square Garden.
Caps center Nicklas Backstrom
had three assists, two of them of the primary variety. His secondary assist was as good a secondary helper as you’ll see. He bounced off a check from New York’s Ryan Callahan, sending the latter to the ice as he passed the puck to Ovechkin on the play that started Semin’s second goal.
After the game, Caps coach Bruce Boudreau singled out Backstrom’s work on the Caps’ fourth goal of the night for special mention. Backstrom was named the game’s No. 3 star for his efforts.
Rugged blueliner John Erskine
continued his yeoman’s work in this series, too. The Caps’ best player to some eyes while playing 19:03 in Saturday’s Game 2 loss, Erskine turned in a solid 18:33 in Game 3, ably protecting the crease in front of Varlamov while refusing to take the bait offered up by the Rangers’ Sean Avery. Erskine skated an average of 16:46 a night during the regular season.
Erskine’s partner Brian Pothier had his best game since returning from a 15-month absence because of the after-effects of a concussion. Pothier, a healthy scratch in Washington’s 4-3 Game 1 loss, played 18:06 on the night. He blocked two shots, fired four of his own and picked up an assist. Pothier was sound at both ends of the ice.
Finally, defenseman Tom Poti
led Washington rearguards with 31 shifts and 23:02 of ice. He netted his first goal since November and the first playoff goal of his NHL career in the third period, biting the hand that once fed him as he victimized the Rangers, one of his former NHL employers. Aside from the goal, Poti played his usual stellar game at the Washington end of the pond.
Start Me Up –
For the third straight game, the Caps came out strong in the first period, But for the first time in the series, the Caps got on the scoreboard in the game’s initial frame. Washington outshot the Rangers 14-11 in the first period of Game 3, and that advantage was 14-6 at one point.
The Caps’ quick start on Monday took the Garden crowd out of the mix and left them subdued and sitting on their hands for most of the evening.
Washington has outshot New York by a combined 41-21 in the first periods of the first three games of the series.
Special Stuff –
The Caps clicked on two of their six power play chances in Game 3, marking the second time in the three games that they’d nicked the Rangers’ penalty killing outfit for multiple extra-man tallies in the same game.
New York finished the 2008-09 season with the league’s top-ranked penalty killing unit with a kill rate of 87.8%. The Rangers went through the final 29 games of the regular season without surrendering more than one power play goal in a contest. The Blueshirts ran up a sterling kill rate of 89.8% during those 29 tilts.
Only three times (including once vs. Washington on Dec. 23) in 41 home games did the Rangers allow more than one power play goal in a game; the last time they did so was in a Jan. 7 game against Montreal. During the regular season, New York surrendered just 16 power play goals in 147 chances (89.1% kill rate) in its 41 home games.
The Caps are now 4-for-16 (25%) with the extra man in the series.
At the other end of the spectrum, Washington held the Rangers without a power play strike for the second straight game. The Caps have killed off 11 straight New York power plays and are 13-for-15 (86.7%) on the kill during the series.
On Target –
The Caps fired 40 shots on goal in Game 3, marking the third straight game in the series in which they’ve poured at least 35 shots on Lundqvist. The Rangers did not face 35 or more shots on goal in three consecutive games at any point during the 2008-09 regular season.
Despite getting a combined total of 70 shots on goal in Games 1 and 2, the Caps also had another 90 bids go awry. New York blocked 50 Washington shots while another 40 missed their intended mark.
The Caps were more accurate in Game 3, getting 13 shots blocked and missing on 15 others. Ovechkin’s radar could still use a tweaking; he now has 24 shots on goal in the series but has had 21 blocked and has missed on 13 tries.
You’ll Get Nothing And Like It –
Washington led the Rangers in Game 1 giveaways by an 11-5 margin and by a whopping 24-7 count in that category in Game 2.
The Capitals buttoned it up on Monday, committing just one giveaway to New York’s four in Game 3.
Not-So-Sweet 16 –
Rangers super-pest Sean Avery was a marginally positive force for his team in the first two games of the series, helping the Rangers take a 2-0 series lead despite playing their first two games on the road. Avery crossed the line in Game 3 and had a negative effect on his club.
Avery incurred four minor penalties – including three in the second period – and a 10-minute misconduct in Monday’s game. One of his penalties negated a New York power play and another resulted in a Washington power play goal.
Stop It –
New York’s four-game home winning streak came to a halt with Monday’s loss to Washington.
Up Two –
Since 1994, the No. 7 or No. 8 seed in a first-round Stanley Cup playoff series has won the first two games of the set nine times. Those teams have gone on to win six of those series.
New York has won the first two games of 12 playoff series in its history and has won 10 of 11 prior to this one. The only exception was in 1968 when the Chicago Blackhawks rebounded from an 0-2 series deficit to oust the Blueshirts.
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