Not Enough – For the fourth time in as many games, the Capitals fired 35 or more shots on goal against New York netminder Henrik Lundqvist. And for the third time in those four games, Washington came up on the short end of a one-goal decision.
Lundqvist made 38 stops in the Rangers’ 2-1 win over the Caps in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal Series between the two teams. The loss pushes Washington to the brink of another first-round exit on the heels of the best regular season showing in franchise history. The Blueshirts hold a commanding 3-1 lead in the series with Game 5 on Friday night at Verizon Center.
Although the Caps have outscored the Rangers 8-7 in the series, they’re one loss away from cleaning out their lockers and heading home for the summer.
Two nights after the Caps scored four goals on Lundqvist in a 4-0 Game 3 victory, the Caps were able to put just one of 39 shots behind the stalwart Rangers goaltender.
New York got a goal from Paul Mara in the first period on a shot that caromed in off Caps defenseman John Erskine. The Rangers’ Brandon Dubinsky won an offensive zone draw back to Mara, who fired a shot that was headed wide to the right of Washington goaltender Simeon Varlamov. But the puck hit Erskine and bounced toward the net and in, up over Varlamov’s shoulder.
The Rangers pushed their lead to 2-0 early in the second when Varlamov was unable to corral a weak shot from New York captain Chris Drury, who is playing despite an injury to his arm/wrist that has hampered his shot and his face-off ability. Drury swooped in and collected his own rebound, then flipped it top shelf over Varlamov’s shoulder.
The Caps outshot New York 30-10 in the final two periods and by a 28-8 margin after Drury’s goal.
While the Rangers scored on a fluke and a gift, the Caps finally solved Lundqvist early in the third when Alex Ovechkin rifled a slapper high off the crossbar and in to put Washington on the board. Sergei Fedorov rang a shot off the post behind Lundqvist in the first period and Ovechkin did so in the third. Once again though – as is seemingly the case every April for the last decade – the breaks didn’t go the Caps’ way on this night.
Familiar Situation – Washington heads home now, down 3-1 in a playoff series, on the brink of elimination. The Caps were in the same spot last spring after a Game 4 loss in double-overtime to the Flyers in Philadelphia.
The Capitals won Game 5 at Verizon Center and Game 6 in Philly to force a seventh game in the District, but lost Game 7 in overtime at the Phone Booth.
Washington has never won a playoff series in which it lost the first two games. It has won only one series in which it trailed three games to one.
Match-Up Switch-Up – Rangers coach John Tortorella switched up his match-ups to good effect in Wednesday’s Game 4, reacting to Caps bench boss Bruce Boudreau’s line adjustments early in the second period.
Shortly after the Caps fell behind 2-0, Boudreau put Ovechkin with Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Semin, uniting his top three forwards on one unit as he often does when trailing in games.
Tortorella countered with Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan against Boudreau’s top unit, using either Markus Naslund, Lauri Korpikoski or Fredrik Sjostrom as the third member of that line. He did so at the expense of some of his high-profile players.
Backstrom won only one of nine draws (11%) he took against Dubinsky on the night. Dubinsky finished the evening 15 of 17 (88%) in the face-off circle.
Callahan skated 15:36 in the final two periods of the game, more than Drury, Naslund, Nik Antropov, Scott Gomez, Sean Avery and Nikolai Zherdev logged for the entire night.
Callahan (17:04 per game during the regular season) was fifth among New York forwards in average regular season ice time and Dubinsky (16:38) was eighth in that department.
Dubinsky played in all 82 regular season games for New York in 2008-09. He exceeded his Wednesday night ice time figure of 19:36 just 13 times in those 82 games.
Callahan played in 81 games for New York in 2008-09. He exceeded his Wednesday night ice figure of 22:16 just twice in those 81 regular season games.
Korpikoski skated in 68 games as a rookie with the Rangers in 2008-09. His total of 15:52 in ice time on Wednesday is a single-game career best for him, regular season or playoffs.
At the other end of the spectrum, Gomez skated just 14:42, his lowest ice time figure at any point in 2008-09.
Circled – Washington had been dominant in the face-off circle early in this series but the Caps got schooled on the draw in Game 4. All six Washington skaters who took a draw in Game 4 were below 50% in the circle on the night, and the Caps finished with a dismal 33% face-off success rate on the night.
Slump Buster – Ovechkin’s goal was his first of the series, and it came at 2:13 of the third period of the fourth game. The goal came on Ovechkin’s 32nd shot on goal of the series. By that point, he had also fired 21 shots that had been blocked by New York defenders and another 14 that missed the mark.
If Ovechkin had scored at a rate of once every 32 shots during the regular season, he would have finished the 2008-09 campaign with just 17 goals instead of his league-leading total of 56.
Power Outage – The Caps scored two power play goals in Game 1, none in Game 2, two in Game 3 and none in six chances in Game 4. Washington is 4-for-22 (18.2%) with the extra man in the series.
The Caps have gotten power play goals from four different scorers: Tomas Fleischmann, Semin, Brooks Laich and Tom Poti. They haven’t had power play contributions from their three leading power play goal getters during the regular season. Ovechkin had 19 regular season power play strikes, Mike Green had 18 and Backstrom had 14.
Shooting Gallery – Washington poured 39 shot on Lundqvist in Wednesday’s Game 4, marking the fourth time in as many games the Caps had recorded 35 or more shots on goal.
The last time the Rangers permitted 35 or more shots on goal in as many as four consecutive games was a five-game stretch from Nov. 14-23, 2001. New York surrendered 42, 36, 40, 39 and 51 shots, respectively, in those five games. The Rangers were outshot in four of those five games and still managed a 3-1-1 record during that stretch.
The last of those five games was in Washington, a 6-2 Capitals win in which the home team outshot New York 51-23.
Close Shaves – The Rangers scored fewer goals and gave up fewer goals than the Caps during the regular season, so it would stand to reason that the Blueshirts would have played in more tight, low-scoring affairs during the regular season. The Rangers are 3-0 in one-goal games in this series, including a 2-1 win in Game 4 and a 1-0 win in Game 2.
The Caps actually fared better than the Rangers in such games during the season. Washington was 8-3 in games with 2-1 final scores, but did not play in any 1-0 games during the season. The Rangers were 6-10 in 2-1 contests and were 1-2 when the final score was 1-0.
Down On The Farm – The Hershey Bears earned a 3-2 win over the Philadelphia Phantoms on Wednesday night at Giant Center to take a commanding lead in the best-of-seven AHL East Division Semifinal series between the two teams.
Staffan Kronwall, Mathieu Perreault and Alexandre Giroux scored for the Bears – the second goal of the playoffs for each – to support the 25-save efforts of Michal Neuvirth in the Hershey nets. Giroux added two assists and Keith Aucoin also had a pair of helpers for the Bears.
Hershey can close out the series with a sweep on Friday at Giant Center. Game 5, if necessary, would also be played at Giant Center on Saturday night.
Down a level, the ECHL South Carolina Stingrays open their South Division Final series with the Florida Everblades in Florida on Friday night. The Stingrays advanced to the division final after disposing of the Charlotte Checkers in the opening round of the ECHL playoffs.
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