Washington appeared caught unaware when the Rangers’ top line dumped the puck into the corner early in the first period. Rangers rookie speedster Carl Hagelin pounced on the loose puck, swooped behind the net and then sent a pass to Richards in the left circle. Richards sent a one-timer cleanly past Holtby for a 1-0 lead just 1 minute 32 seconds into the first.
Following the Game 7 loss, the Capitals dropped to 0-6 in the playoffs when allowing the first goal.
Washington pressed for the tying goal in the second period but despite numerous chances, including close looks by Alexander Semin and Mike Knuble on the doorstep and a lengthy two-minute shift that saw the visitors take up residence in the offensive zone, they couldn’t find a way to foil Lundqvist. The Rangers, meanwhile, were content to play their collapsing, patient defensive game — a style not all that dissimilar to the Capitals’ but one that has been identified with the franchise for several years now.
“They got a lead in the beginning and then they just controlled the game,” Nicklas Backstrom said. “We were trying to score and we had a lot of possession, especially in the second period, but we couldn’t get any real opportunities.”
The Rangers made it 2-0 with just less than 10 minutes left by taking advantage of a sloppy line change by John Carlson. On the Rangers’ odd-man rush, Brooks Laich blocked a shot by Marian Gaborik but the puck bounced out to an unguarded Michael Del Zotto, who buried a snap shot. The two-goal edge didn’t provide much security, though; the Capitals answered 38 seconds later to make it 2-1.
Veteran defenseman Roman Hamrlik’s shot from the slot was deflected in front and past Lundqvist to make it a one-goal game at 10:43, but that spark wouldn’t be enough to extend the Capitals’ season as they fell short of tying the contest to force extra time.
“They were 1 percent better than us tonight,” Knuble said. “You think you could’ve won. You think you were right there and I think you really go home and look in the mirror. At certain times you get beat in a playoff series and you look in the mirror and you can’t fool yourself, you didn’t have a chance to win that series, ultimately. I think our players should be very proud of our effort.”