Capitals vs. Rangers Recap: Big second period keys Washington victory

USA TODAY Sports

The Capitals potted three goals in the second period, while Braden Holtby took care of the Rangers shooters.

The Washington Capitals rode a three-goal second period to defeat the New York Rangers, 3-1, in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series.

The Capitals actually had a great first period, registering the first nine shots of the game. It was in the eighth minute before they allowed the Rangers a shot on Braden Holtby, who would be needed to make 35 saves over the next 52 minutes.

But it was Henrik Lundqvist who stopped everything in the first, and the Rangers took the lead on a bit of a fluke goal after Corey Hagelin's wraparound attempt went in off of Capitals defenseman John Erskine.

That one came after the Capitals had just killed a bad Jay Beagle penalty, but Beagle was still on the ice and the Capitals could not get their lines set.

Oates' reaction the penalty foretold the doom that resulted:

Oatesface_medium

But this game was won in the second period, when the Capitals stormed back with three goals, striking twice in quick succession to build a 3-1 lead. The Rangers actually outshot the Capitals 28-16 over the final two periods and 36-21 after their poor start.

But as they say, it's the scoreboard that matters.

Alex Ovechkin notched the first one for the Capitals, playing a rebound off the boards behind Lundqvist:

Capsgoal_medium

Then Marcus Johansson and Jason Chimera scored 46 seconds apart to give the Capitals the lead and an insurance goal. Johansson's came on a pretty stretch pass from Steven Oleksy. Chimera's was on a desperate valley from the half boards.

The Capitals held that lead the rest of the way.

The Rangers' closest attempts at a comeback came when they hit the crossbar halfway through the third period, and with four minutes left when defenseman John Moore rushed down the left wing and tried to sneak a shot on Braden Holtby's near post. Moore raised his arms in celebration, but it doesn't look like the puck ever crossed the line.

In fact, no one could tell where the puck went. Multiple replays weren't just inconclusive -- they couldn't find the puck. It may have rolled off Holtby's back and up his pant leg, but regardless it never crossed the goal line.

Before the game, we considered three questions for this game. Let's review:

1. Will Derek Stepan continue his success against the Capitals?

Not on the scoreboard, but the ever-improving Stepan was effective in multiple roles. He registered three shots on goal, took a team-high 29 faceoffs, and logged more than five minutes on the penalty kill, including a key clear when his stick had broken.

2. How will Rick Nash perform in his first playoff game as a Ranger?

Nash had eight shots in 23 minutes of ice time, jamming at rebounds and firing from the rush. Like Stepan, he was kept off the scoreboard but was hardly invisible.

3. Will Washington improve on the power play?

The Capitals had five power play opportunities and their lone conversion, on Ovechkin's goal, was the big equalizer. They moved the puck well and were unlucky to not pot another.

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