The pessimist will state that the Capitals dominated the Rangers. The optimist will argue that the Rangers absorbed body blows and were in the game for the full 78:24.
The truth is that both the pessimist and optimist are correct.
Friday’s Game 2 of the Capitals-Rangers Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series is vital. Washington leads the series, 1-0, after winning in overtime Wednesday night, 2-1. A road split and the Rangers come back to the Garden Sunday with confidence. Down 2-0 and the Rangers can begin preparing for the 2011-12 season
The Rangers actually led 1-0 in the third period before Henrik Lundqvist, who was the best Ranger by a wide margin, allowed a tying goal to Alex Ovechkin with 6:16 remaining. Alex Semin’s first goal in 15 playoff games won the match with 1:46 left in overtime. Lundqvist made 31 saves-on-33 shots.
The Rangers’ best line Wednesday night was the in-game concoction of Brandon Prust, Brian Boyle and Wojtek Wolski. The trio combined for two assists on Matt Gilroy’s series opening tally 1:56 into the third. Prust’s work along the wall allowed
Wolski to set up behind the net and find a streaking Gilroy while Boyle screened Michael Neuvirth. The line was plus-two, had four
shots on goal, had five of their shots blocked and missed on another, threw 10 hits and blocked seven shots. As a team, the Rangers finished with 31 hits and blocked 28 shots.
“We played the game we wanted to for the most part,” Boyle told reporters after the game. “We had our chances. We’re obviously not very happy with the outcome but it’s a long series. I think we did a lot of good things.”
What the Rangers did not do well was consistently generate offense and test playoff neophyte Neuvirth. The Rangers were 0-for-2 with the man advantage and only totaled 25 shots on goal. A great deal of the lack of success is attributable to Washington’s newfound defensive mindset.
The Capitals finished the season with only 197 goals allowed, fourth best in the league. Washington won 16 of its last 20 games, a stretch in which the Capitals outscored opponents by an aggregate 56-35.
“We played our game, we got down low and we grinded pretty good,” Gilroy said, before acknowledging that the Rangers
need more, “action in front of the net.”
John Tortorella may juggle lines in an effort to find mixtures of skill and grind. But, in the end, the Rangers offensive effort has to be spearheaded by Marian Gaborik. The right wing ended Game One with four shots on goal, had four shots blocked and missed a shot. The nine shots may portend well for the remainder of the series, as well his second period shoving match with Capitals defenseman Mike Green.
Other players that could be counted on for offense are Brandon Dubinsky (one shot on goal and one missed shot), Ruslan Fedotenko (a shot on goal, two shots blocked, three missed shots), Vinny Prospal (three shots on goal, two shots blocked, one missed shot), Derek Stepan (three shots blocked) and Erik Christensen (two shots on goal).