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May 4 vs. New York Rangers at Verizon Center
Time: 12:30 p.m.
Radio: 1500 AM and 106.7 The Fan FM/Capitals Radio Network
New York Rangers (28-13-5)
Washington Capitals (26-18-3)
Game 2, Eastern Conference Quarterfinal Series
Less than 48 hours after taking a 1-0 series lead in their best-of-seven opening round playoff series with the New York Rangers, the Caps will try to get a two-game jump on the Rangers when they host New York in Game 2 at Verizon Center.
Following a four-day break between the end of the regular season and the start of their series with the Rangers, the Caps came out strong and swift early in Game 1, putting the Rangers on their heels for the better part of the first frame.
An important element of that fast start occurred in the game’s first minute when New York took a bench minor for too many men on the ice on its first line change of the evening. Although the Caps did not score on the ensuing power play, Washington was able to generate some good looks and chances and the Rangers were on their heels for the better part of the game’s first 15 minutes.
New York’s Carl Hagelin scored first, giving the Rangers a 1-0 advantage after 20 minutes of play. Normally, that’s a good omen for the Blueshirts, During the 2012-13 regular season, New York was 18-2-1 when it scored the game’s first goal and it was 13-0-1 when leading after the first period.
Ovechkin evened the game on a Washington power play in the second, a good omen for the home team. In the 20 playoff games the Caps have played against New York in his career, Ovechkin has scored in 10 of them. Washington is 8-2 in those games and 4-6 in the games against the Rangers in which he does not find the back of the net.
The goal was Ovechkin’s 31st in 52 career Stanley Cup playoff contests, putting him alone atop Washington’s all-time leader board in that department. He is one head of Peter Bondra, who tallied 30 times in 73 postseason games in a Capitals sweater.
“I was pretty convinced Chimmer was going to score [Thursday],” says Caps right wing Eric Fehr, speaking of linemate Chimera. “He was as amped up as I’ve ever seen any player for a playoff game, right from the morning on through game time. He brought it last night and he played a really good game. Even if he doesn’t score that goal, he played well. He was tracking down icings and really creating energy for our team.”
Chimera scored the goal on his 34th birthday.
Holtby again avoided losing consecutive playoff games. The next time he loses two in a row in the postseason will be the first time.
“Holtsy’s been playing great for us the entire season,” says Caps defenseman Karl Alzner. “He’s got a little bit of everything; he makes big saves, he makes easy saves, he plays the puck really well. He deserves a lot of credit.
“He’s kept us in I don’t know how many games. He kept us in all last year in the playoffs. He’s just a good goaltender. Even when he is not having his best night, he finds a way to do a lot of right things for us in terms of moving the puck, freezing it when we need it, playing it when we need it. He’s just a smart guy.”
The Game 1 triumph is but one small step, and the Caps’ focus is now squarely on Game 2. Washington is now seeking its first successive playoff wins since it took Games 4 and 5 of their first-round series against the Boston Bruins last spring.
“You have to win your home games,” declares Fehr. “It’s a big difference. Momentum swings with the crowd and everything, everybody is on your side. It’s a lot easier to play at home. MSG is a tough building to play in, so we’ve got to try to win our game [Saturday] and go into New York, knowing that’s a tough building to play in.”
New York came to town with the goal of winning at least one of the first two games in the District, and that goal is still extremely achievable. One of the keys for the Rangers will be to stay out of the penalty box. Starting with their puzzling too many men penalty in the first minute of the opening game of the playoffs, New York was shorthanded five times in Thursday’s series opener.
In their final 23 games of the regular season, the normally disciplined Rangers were shorthanded as many as five times in a game only twice. The Blueshirts know that taking that many penalties on a regular basis in this series is a recipe for disaster against the Washington power play, which was the league’s most prolific since 1989-90.
The Rangers were the league’s third most efficient team in five-on-five play during the regular season, so they’ll be happy to play as much of the series at even strength as possible.
Game 2 will either even the series or put the Capitals ahead by a pair going into Monday’s Game 3 at Madison Square Garden.
“We can’t get too excited about a win and can’t get too down about a loss,” says Alzner. “We’re happy with the way we played last game; I don’t think they’re very happy with the way they played. You know we’re going to see a different team [on Saturday]. We’ve got to look at the positives that we had and put it behind us and start fresh again. We’re ready for the next game already.”
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