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The New York Rangers and Washington Capitals opened their playoff series with what wasn’t the prettiest of games, but if this is an example of how tight the series will be the fans of both teams will be on the edge of their seats. The Capitals protected home ice with Alex Semin’s OT winner 18:24 into the first session of extra hockey. The play saw Jason Arnott catch an attempted clear from Marc Staal at the point and then a wide open Semin in the slot who ripped a one-timer past Lundqvist high on the stick side to give Washington the 1-0 lead in the series.
New York while not playing a great game by any stretch had opportunities to win the game and steal Game 1 in Washington and have to take some measure of solace in that fact. It tells the Rangers they can raise their game and change the result. The Rangers grinders played well in the game, but their offensive talent failed to do anything of major note in the game. The team fought well and proved to everyone this will be no pushover in the series.
The problem with the loss is not just that they lost, but how. The fact that both Ovechkin and Semin scored gives the Capitals two biggest offensive weapons confidence for the rest of the series and after both went scoreless against New York in four meetings this year now have two goals in their back pocket already.
The first period saw the Rangers badly outplayed by the home town Capitals, but Henrik Lundqvist was excellent to keep the game at 0-0. The team took two bad penalties in the period. The first was a too many men on the ice call that was caused when Brandon Dubinsky jumped over the boards early and the other was a weak boarding call against Mats Zuccarello. The Rangers killed off both power plays, but were lucky during the period when both Alex Semin and Jason Arnott hit the crossbar after beating Lundqvist with their shots. The Arnott chance came after an attempted Prust breakout pass went off the skate of Marc Staal and found Arnott alone in the slot. Alex Ovechkin was also left open multiple times during the period, fanning once on the shot and then getting stoned by Lundqvist.
The second period saw the Rangers play to a more equivalent level of the Capitals. Each goaltender had a huge save in the period. Neuvirth stoned Gaborik from the front of the net just before the midway point of the period and then late in the period Backstrom was in alone on a breakaway before Lundqvist shut him down. The play for Backstrom was created by the Capitals stretching the Rangers defense with a breakout pass from Carlson to Ovechkin who then hit Backstrom alone in the middle of the ice.
The Rangers happiness to be tied after two periods increase dramatically just moments into the third period when Matt Gilroy scored to make it 1-0. The play was created by Brandon Prust taking the body in the corner, working it down to Wojtek Wolski behind the net who found a pinching Gilroy and he beat Neuvirth with a snap shot far side.
Washington tied it 13:44 into the period on a goal from Alex Ovechkin. The play saw the Capitals jam at the loose puck around the crease and while it appeared that the referee was going to blow the play dead the puck was in the net before. The play would go to review before being confirmed as a goal. The goal was a huge one for the Capitals who were beginning to press for the goal and the pressure would have only mounted the longer it went on.
- Brandon Dubinsky was awful tonight and must be better as one of the Rangers leaders if they are going to actually win the games instead of just contend.
- The defense played very well as a group and I was impressed with how Sauer, McDonagh and even Gilroy adjusted to the differences of playoff hockey.