Derick Brassard scored the game’s lone goal off a deflection, and Henrik Lundqvist finished with 27 saves for his first shutout of this series, but it was the parade to the penalty box that again sabotaged Washington’s efforts.
The Capitals have taken 31 penalties in the series. New York, which was the NHL’s least penalized team in the regular season, has been called for 19.
“It was the difference in the game,” Capitals center Matt Hendricks said. “Couple undisciplined ones, retaliatory stuff and it’s a combination of playing on the road, tough environment, not getting the calls we thought we should have been getting. But we’re not that hockey team. We’re not that type of team. We’re a disciplined hockey team. We need to stay disciplined.”
In each of the past four games the Capitals have taken at least two more minor penalties than New York. In each game, the extended shorthanded stints have thrown them off their game plan.
For the first time in the series, though, the Rangers didn’t have to kill a single penalty because they weren’t called for an infraction until a pair of roughing minors at the final buzzer. Frustration with the discrepancy in calls has built up for the Capitals, and it appeared to reach a boiling point in Game 6.
“We took penalties. We deserved some; we didn’t deserve some. I can’t believe that they didn’t get a penalty tonight,” winger Troy Brouwer said. “Seems a little bit outlandish, but that’s how it goes. That’s how the series has kind of gone on. We’re not helping ourselves, either. We take untimely penalties.”
After looking out of sorts early on in the previous two games in New York, the Capitals got off to a more crisp start in Game 6. Washington’s defensive support made for clean breakouts and short offensive possessions for the Rangers — until the trips to the penalty box began.
The Capitals took three minor penalties in the final 9 minutes 59 seconds of the first period, beginning with Jack Hillen receiving a roughing minor for a retaliatory shove of Ryan Callahan. Then they took two more in rapid succession — Karl Alzner for delay of game and Eric Fehr for elbowing — that led to a 44-second five-on-three for New York.
Luckily for Washington, the Rangers’ power play remained incompetent, making poor decisions with the puck, passing up opportunities to shoot and making it easy to anticipate its movements. New York recorded just five shots on the six minutes of power-play time in the first, none on the two-man advantage. After two more unsuccessful opportunities in the third, the unit is now 2 for 26 in the series, but there’s a sense that the Rangers’ power play is bound to break out at some point.