Rangers Vs. Capitals, Game 1: New York Grabs 1-0 Series Lead After Big Third Period
The New York Rangers and Washington Capitals kick off the Eastern Conference semifinals with Game 1 of their series on Saturday.
We have complete series coverage in our Rangers vs. Capitals StoryStream.
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In the first round of the chess match between the Rangers and Capitals, much will be made of Mike Green's mistakes, but Marc Staal's performance may be a sign of future trouble for the Rangers in this series.
"Mike Green miscue" was perhaps the difference in Game 1. He was also at fault on New York's first goal of the game when Artem Anisimov beat him behind the Capitals goal. Green wrapped his arms around Anisimov, who just dragged the defenseman with him to the front of the net where he beat Holtby.
Holtby didn't have one of his best games in the postseason, and he probably should have had several of the New York goals. The teams combined for just 32 shots total, so it's possible that Holtby had trouble getting into a bit of a rhythm in Game 1. The second game of the best-of-seven Eastern Conference Semifinal is scheduled for Monday night at 7:30 p.m. ET.
Penalties are usually bad but, on occasion, when you kill off a gigantic 5-on-3 opportunity, the extra energy can swing in your favor. That's partly what happened to the New York Rangers in the second period of Game 1.
Henrik Lundqvist and the Rangers defense killed off a lengthy two-man Capitals advantage with some luck, some help from the post and a ton of blocked shots. As the Madison Square Garden crowd rose to its feet near the end of the kill, New York clearly used the boost to propel things in the opposite direction.
Less than three minutes after Brandon Prust stepped out of the box, Artem Anisimov picked up a puck behind the Caps net, shook off a tackle attempt from Mike Green, skated in front of Braden Holtby and beat the Caps goaltender with a shot under the arm. It gave them a 1-0 lead in a game where one goal could be what decides things.
But as quickly as the momentum shifted following the Caps' failed power play attempt, it changed again with seconds left in the second period. Jason Chimera received a beauty of a pass from Brooks Laich and, while Lundqvist was able to get into position in front of Chimera's point-blank shot, it just snuck through the five-hole to tie the score at 1-1.
It got Washington just minutes after they were robbed of either a) a power play attempt, b) a penalty shot or c) a goal when Marcus Johansson was hauled down on a breakaway. A Rangers defenseman tripped up Johansson, who careened into Lundqvist, the puck following into the back of the net. No penalty was called on the play, and the officials waved off the goal. Bad officiating: Par for the course in the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The New York Rangers may have controlled play early in the first period of Game 1, but as things progressed, the Washington Capitals certainly settled in. Aided by a power play at the 12:16 mark of the period, via a Marc Staal interference penalty, the Caps were able to put together a lengthy stretch of control.
They were able to get shots on Henrik Lundqvist -- who was good as always -- and they generated several quality scoring chances as well. New York grabbed a bit of momentum back late, at least in terms of offensive pressure, when Alex Ovechkin went to the box on a tripping minor. But Washington did a phenomenal job on the power play, and New York squandered the opportunity to regain control.
The Caps did a great job of limiting the number of quality Rangers chances when New York held the puck in their end. Braden Holtby didn't have to be great thanks to six Caps' blocked shots and a defense that didn't allow the Rangers to get solid looks at the net. Washington needs to stay out of the box a bit, but they're in good shape after one period thanks to the same solid defensive strategy that helped them get by the Bruins in Round 1.
That feeling on the left side of your neck? It's pain, because for 10 straight minutes of hockey at the start of Game 1 between the Rangers and Capitals, you've been looking to one side of your television screen.
The Rangers have spent just about the entire game in the Washington end of the ice thus far, and even a Mike Rupp penalty for goaltender interference couldn't keep them on defense long. Alex Semin gave Ryan Callahan a retaliatory slash just 27 seconds after the Rupp penalty, eliminating the Washington power play and any chance of a momentum shift. Callahan sold the call, but it's clear that he got in Semin's head a bit early in this series. Discipline, Alex. Discipline.
The Rangers are noticeably going after goalie Braden Holtby as well. Aside from Rupp's interference penalty, the Rangers have put plenty of bodies in and around Holtby's crease in the early going. The Capitals are attempting to put on a bit more offensive pressure, but so far, both teams seem settled in defensively.