The Rangers have battled through a lot of adversity to get where they are this season. The Washington Capitals let it be known that the Rangers have another obstacle to overcome as they attempt to reach the Eastern Conference Finals.
In game 2 of their best of seven series, the Capitals jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first period. The Rangers struggled to generate much offense early on, and they eventually mustered a goal at the end of the first period to bring the game to a 2-1 Washington lead entering the first intermission. The second period was a defensive battle, as neither team was able to find the net. It was an extremely clean period as both teams avoided taking penalties as well.
Entering the third period, the Rangers and Capitals continued their defensive battle, until Mike Knuble took a penalty slashing Ryan Callahan. The Rangers captain then struck less than a minute later and tied the game up for the home team. Just when it looked like the Rangers had the momentum coming back from two down, they took two penalties in succession, and Alexander Ovechkin finally showed up to the series and gave Washington a 3-2 lead with a sick slap shot from just inside the blue line. The Rangers tried to get a tying goal, and even hit the post on a Michael Del Zoto slap shot with less than a minute left, but they didn’t find the net and went down in defeat.
In some ways, I thought the Rangers played better tonight then in the game they won on Saturday. They were the far more aggressive team, outhitting Washington 45 to 35. They also doubled their shots from game 1, recording 28 in tonight’s contest. However, hits and shots don’t win games, and the Rangers inability to get that last tying goal cost them dearly.
To me, Alexander Ovechkin is the story of the game. Three years ago he was looked at as the best player in the game. He was scoring damn near 60 goals every year and leading Washington’s fast-paced offense to a top seed every season. However, this year Dale Hunter has changed the Capitals style to a defensive mind-set, and OV has lost a lot of ice time as a result. In tonight’s game, Ovechkin was only on the ice for 13 and a half minutes, which was the 12th most on his team. However, he seems to be in good spirits about his role. He also managed the last laugh, as he rose up tonight at the end of the game and reminded everyone about his shot and his ability to score goals in big moments, winning the game for the Caps.
I expect the Rangers to bounce back from this game, however this will be more of a dog fight then I anticipated after watching Game 1. Washington plays a similar style of hockey to the Rangers. They are strong defensively, have really good goaltending in rookie Braden Holtby, and they have skilled players who have a history of making big plays. The Rangers will have their hands full with this team, though I still believe New York is the better team. As a Ranger fan I went from being extremely confident that we would advance, to cautiously optimistic. We all know goaltending ultimately wins in the playoffs, and even though Lundqvist didn’t have his best game tonight, he still made unbelievable saves in key moments and my faith will remain with him to beat out a mostly unproven kid in Holtby.
We’ll see you Wednesday in Washington for what should be another well-played defensive battle!