Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series between the New York Rangers and Washington Capitals was looking like another strong performance of late for the Rangers through one period. Then, suddenly, the Caps just took the game over. They got a power play goal in the second period, then added two quick ones before the period was out, held the fort in the third and took Game 1 3-1.
Carl Hagelin got the game's first goal for New York. After the Caps had dominated the first half of the period, Hagelin got a goal on a wrap-around and the Rangers had a lead and were just starting to control the play. The shots ended 14-8 after the first period, but that would be the last time Thursday night that the Capitals led on the shot board. It didn't end up mattering.
Things all seemed to turn on an Aaron Asham penalty for an illegal check to the head on Jack Hillen at 6:26 of the second period. The Caps got to work on their often lethal power play, and they got the job done. A Mike Green shot was stopped by Henrik Lundqvist, but Alexander Ovechkin found the rebound to even the score at 1-1. It was Ovechkin's 31st career playoff goal.
The Capitals struck for two more goals in the second period in short order. Marcus Johansson took a beautiful Steve Oleksy pass on a breakaway and beat Lundqvist at 14:21. 46 seconds later, Jason Chimera put in a fluky one past King Henrik, and that was largely it. Despite being outshot 36-30, the Capitals took Game 1 by a score of 3-1. The two teams meet again in Washington on Saturday.
1. Can the Rangers get their power play going?
The Rangers were 0-for-4 with eight shots in 7:04 of power play time on Thursday night. Against a team that can pile up goals on it's own power play, the Rangers are going to need to find a way to make their own star-studded man advantages work. The Rangers had the 23rd-best power play during the regular season, second-worst of the 16 teams that made the post-season, as only Boston was worse. The Rangers need to take advantage of those chances, especially since they're so starved for goals in the first place.
2. Will Jason Chimera continue to get playoff goals against the Rangers?
Chimera's goal on Thursday was his eighth career playoff goal. Six of them have come against the New York Rangers. Now, the Rangers and Capitals have met more times than any other two teams in the playoffs since the 2004-05 lockout, but that's still a remarkable percentage. If the Caps can get a few goals from a grinding player like Chimera in this series, then it probably won't last long.
3. Can Braden Holtby keep out-dueling Henrik Lundqvist?
Henrik Lundqvist kept the Rangers in the game early on in the first period, stopping 14 first period shots. But the rest of the way, the Rangers put a lot tougher rubber on Braden Holtby, and he proved up to the task. Meanwhile, the Chimera goal that put New York away was a pretty soft one for Lundqvist to give up. Regardless of how stoppable you felt the goals were, the Rangers simply can't have Holtby playing better than Lundqvist if they want to win this series. Lundqvist is thought to be the Rangers' biggest advantage, and if he isn't that, the Rangers are toast.