Friday The 15th – Two guys named Jason (albeit without hockey masks) helped put on a horror show for the New York Rangers on Friday the 15th. Washington taxed the Rangers 2-0 in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal Series at Verizon Center on Friday to take the series back to New York with a 2-0 lead.
“They had shots early in the game,” notes Neuvirth. “After [the] first period, I think they had like 13 shots. I feel pretty good about my game right now. After, I think we didn’t give up any big scoring chances, I think it was a solid team effort tonight.”
Game 3 is Sunday afternoon at Madison Square Garden and Game 4 is on Wednesday night in the same venue.
“We can enjoy it for 20 minutes, but then we keep going,” says Chimera. “We have to keep pushing. By no means is it done. When the hammer’s down, you gotta keep on going. They can easily steal two there and come back and tie it.”
As expected, the Rangers came out with some verve in the first on Friday, firing 13 shots on net and laying 18 hits. But Washington took control of the contest with a pair of goals in the first five minutes of the second period, then stymied the Rangers the rest of the way.
With 13 shots in the first frame, New York was more than half way to managing its Game 1 total of 25. But the Caps defense made sure the Rangers never reached that mark. Washington’s defense bottled up the Blueshirts, limiting them to nine shots on goal over the game’s final 40 minutes.
Two games and 138 minutes of hockey into this series, New York has mustered all of 47 shots on goal and one goal, that from a defenseman (Matt Gilroy) who was playing in the first Stanley Cup playoff game of his NHL career.
Neuvirth got all the offense he would need just past the two-minute mark of the second. Caps defenseman Scott Hannan made a strong play at the right point to keep a puck alive and in the attack zone. Hannan wheeled the disc down to wall where Brooks Laich outmuscled Gilroy to the right of the New York net. Laich shoveled the puck along, pushing it behind the net to linemate Marcus Johansson on the left side. Johansson fired a tape-to-tape pass to an unchecked Chimera in the slot, and the big Caps winger drilled it past New York netminder Henrik Lundqvist to break a scoreless tie.
“He’s heating up and it’s playoff time,” says Caps coach Bruce Boudreau of Chimera. “Sometimes through history there’s been guys who have played and raised their level of play at playoff time. I thought he’s had two really good games.”
Rookie Whitewash – Neuvirth’s shutout was the first by a Caps’ goaltender in the Stanley Cup playoffs since Semyon Varlamov blanked the Rangers twice in the 2009 ECQS.
Washington has pitched three shutouts over the Rangers in the last seven postseason games played between the two teams.
Stifling Second – Washington put together as dominant a period of hockey as it has managed in recent memory in the middle frame of Game 2. The contest was scoreless heading into the second, but the Caps scored on their third shot of the period – a Chimera one-timer from the slot – to take a 1-0 lead.
Just 48 seconds after that goal, rookie Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh took his second minor penalty of the night. The Caps cashed in on the resulting power play as Arnott scored Washington’s second goal in a span of 117 seconds.
New York bench boss John Tortorella burned his timeout at that point, but it was to little effect. The Blueshirts didn’t record their first shot on goal of the period until the 10:45 mark, and New York’s Ruslan Fedotenko unwisely put his team a man down simultaneously with an offensive zone high-sticking call on Caps’ defenseman Mike Green.
“It’s a valuable lesson,” says Rangers coach John Tortorella. “We had some turnovers. It caused the momentum change right away in the second period. For about five or six minutes there, they surged on us. They scored a goal, we take a penalty, get an unfortunate bounce and that’s a big part of the game.”
The Rangers killed that penalty, but didn’t exhibit much life for the remainder of the frame. The Capitals took 21 shots to New York’s five in the second. Three of the Rangers shots went on net, two were blocked.
Ice Management – Boudreau and assistant coaches Dean Evason and Bob Woods had the luxury of evenly managing the ice time of their 18 skaters in Friday’s Game 2.
No Washington forward hit the 20-minute mark for the night; Ovechkin’s 19:51 was tops among Caps forwards. Hannan paced the Caps’ blueline corps with 21:34. Each of the top four Washington rearguards in terms of ice time came in between 20:10 and 21:34, and the Caps were able to limit Green to 16:27 in his second game in a span of a month and a half.
Sandbagging – New York scored six goals in a 6-0 laugher over the Capitals in a Feb. 25 visit to Verizon Center, its last game in the District prior to this series. But that sort of offensive largesse has not been at all evident from the Rangers in their postseason visits to Verizon.
Dating back to Game 2 of the 2009 ECQS between the Caps and Rangers, the Blueshirts have now scored a total of three goals in their last five postseason games in Washington.
Powering Up – The Capitals’ power play was its Achilles’ heel in last spring’s playoffs when they went a positively anemic 1-for-33 (3%) with the extra man in a seven-game set with the Montreal Canadiens. Arnott’s power play strike involved a good bounce and a bit of puck luck, but it stands as the Capitals’ first extra-man tally in five postseason games, since Game 4 of the 2010 playoffs against the Habs.
Arnott won an offensive zone draw back to Alex Ovechkin at the left point. Ovechkin fed Mike Green at the right point. Green skated in and let loose a rocket of a shot that caromed off Gilroy and bounced right to Arnott at the left dot. Arnott quickly and calmly fired it into a yawning cage to give the Caps the first special teams goal of the series.
“Special teams are going to win you games all the time,” says Boudreau. “We got a lucky break. It was a great shot and we deserved to score.”
Radar Love – Caps captain Alex Ovechkin teed up 10 shots but got just two of them on net. His best chance came on a sublime indirect breakout feed from Karl Alzner that resulted in a third-period breakaway and a terrific left pad stop by Lundqvist.
Ovechkin fired a number of hard, sharp wrist shots that were just off the mark; he missed the net on five occasions and had another three blocked. If history is an indicator, Ovechkin may be poised for a multiple-goal game in the near future. Those contests seem to follow the games in which he whistles a handful of lasers just wide.
By The Numbers – Chimera led the Caps with five shots on goal … Ovechkin led the Caps with six hits; Chimera had five. Boyd Gordon and Scott Hannan were the only Caps who did not record a hit on the night … John Erskine, Nicklas Backstrom and (surprise) Karl Alzner led the shot-blocking parade with three each … Fedotenko led New York with six hits … Dan Girardi led the Blueshirts with four blocked shots … The Capitals have scored seven goals in their last five Stanley Cup playoff games.
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