April 30 vs. New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden
Time: 7:30 pm TV: NBCSN Radio: 1500AM, 820AM, XM and Caps Radio Network Pre-Game: Two-Man Advantage at 3 p.m., John Walton’s one-on-one audio with Dale Hunter at 3 p.m. on washingtoncaps.com.
Washington Capitals (42-32-8), 92 points
New York Rangers (51-24-7), 109 points
Game 1, Eastern Conference semifinal series (New York leads series, 1-0)
In Game 1 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series with the Boston Bruins, the Washington Capitals managed just 17 shots on B’s netminder Tim Thomas, and the result was a 1-0 overtime loss and an early deficit in the series.
In Game 1 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series with the New York Rangers, the Capitals managed just 18 shots on Blueshirts netminder Henrik Lundqvist, and the result was a 3-1 setback and an early deficit in the series.
Washington finds itself in familiar territory after its Game 1 loss to the Rangers on Saturday, needing to put more pucks on one of the game’s best goaltenders to give itself a chance to score more goals.
The Capitals hit three goalposts and a crossbar behind Lundqvist, but they still need to find a way to generate – and cash in on – more scoring chances. Getting some production out of their power play would also be beneficial, but that’s becoming an annual rite of spring in these parts.
The Caps went 0-for-4 with the extra man in Saturday’s series opener, and they whiffed on a two-man advantage that lasted 34 seconds. Washington’s power play is now 3-for-23 (13%) this spring, and the Capitals are 9-for-91 (9.9%) with the extra man in their last 24 playoff games. Washington has gone 32 straight playoff games without scoring multiple power play goals in the same contest.
“It’s a new series now,” says Caps right wing Mike Knuble. “The pace and the stakes go up again. We’ve got to make sure that we’re working that much harder to get shots to the net.
“You get used to a seven-game series, working at that certain pace and a certain way of doing things to generate shots. Well, it’s going to be a little bit different now with a different set of defensemen. This defense takes a ton of pride in blocking shots and they know they’ve got a world-class goalie behind them. We’re going to have to upgrade our offensive work ethic and work that much harder to score goals. Hopefully, we can get them by [Lundqvist].”
At the opposite end of the ice, Washington played – for the most part, anyway – one of its best and most stifling defensive games. The Caps limited the Rangers to just eight shots on goal in the game’s first 40 minutes, and New York managed only 14 shots on goal for the game. That’s the fewest shots the Capitals have ever allowed in a road playoff game.
“I think we held them to 14 shots,” says Caps right wing Troy Brouwer. “And when you do that most nights, you’re going to give yourself a great opportunity to win. But we’re going up a very good defensive team and a very good goalie. With a higher quantity of shots, we’re going to get more opportunities to the net. We’ve got to find a way to get pucks through, we’ve got to find lanes to get pucks through and we’ve got to get guys to the net for those rebounds.”
The Caps made a few mistakes, and it seemed that all of them ended up in their net. Washington goaltender Braden Holtby was less than ordinary for the first time in the 2012 playoffs, surrendering three goals on the 14 shots he faced.
After seeing a barrage of shots most nights in the Boston series, Game 1 was a bit of a mental letdown for Holtby. The 22-year-old netminder has always been diligent about learning from his mistakes, and this time is no different.
“Being prepared for whatever game presents itself,” says Holtby, when asked what he needs to learn from Game 1. “The seven games against Boston were pretty similar in the fact that their game plan was to shoot with traffic and shoot a lot and just throw things on net.
“[Game 1 against the Rangers] was more of a difficult game for a goaltender to play in terms of keeping your mind into it. But that’s what I have to be ready for. Over the course of a playoff season, you’re going to get all sorts of games and all sorts of different scenarios. I have to be more ready for it.”
New York forwards fired a total of 30 shots on the afternoon, and only eight of those bids found their way to the net. But three of the eight went in, sending the Caps to their sixth successive second-round playoff setback.
Washington’s mission is the same as it was when the Capitals arrived in town on Friday, win one of the two games in New York to wrest the home ice advantage away from the Blueshirts. The Caps squandered their first opportunity to do that in Game 1, and they know they need a better all-around performance in Game 2 to pull even in the series before heading back to Washington for Games 3 and 4.
“It’s hard to pinpoint what happened [in Game 1],” says Caps right wing Joel Ward. “We didn’t give them too much, but they definitely capitalized on their chances. I thought we could have been better, for sure. But Game 1 is behind us. We have to look forward to Game 2. We just have to clean up a few areas and I think once we do that, we’ll transition to more offense.
“We had some positives for sure. They didn’t have a great deal of chances and we didn’t get blown out of the water. But I thought it was a game that if we would have taken it to them more, put on a little bit more pressure, we could have been right in there and the result could have been different.
“It’s something that we can correct, I think we’ve just got to be more hungry and more motivated coming into the next game.”