The Capitals’ season ended with an unceremonious thud, shut out 5-0 by New York at Verizon Center in the team’s worst postseason loss since 2000. Henrik Lundqvist was superb in goal, finishing with 35 saves to conclude a series the Rangers initially trailed two games to none with consecutive shutouts.
“Quite honestly, tough to explain. It’s funny how over the years the seventh game turns into some form of blowout,” said Adam Oates, the Capitals’ first-year coach. “I wish I had an answer for that. Obviously we pushed very hard in the first period, he made a lot of great saves. They got a lucky one and every bounce seemed to go their way after that.”
This is the latest seven-game gut punch for the Capitals during the Alex Ovechkin era. In the past six postseasons, Washington is 2-5 in winner-take-all games, 1-4 when that game is played at home.
In that same span, with the core of Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Green, the Capitals have never advanced past the conference semifinals; this elimination marks the third time they’ve been booted from the first round.
Asked if there was anything the team could take out of this short stay in the postseason, Backstrom was scathing.
“Lesson? Maybe learn how to play in the playoffs, I would say,” said Backstrom, who was critical of his own one-goal, three-point effort in the series. “It’s the same thing as previous years, I would say. We came back regular season then playoff came and we’re not good enough. I can just talk for myself and my effort. Not good enough. No excuses. It’s just a bad effort.”
The Capitals had the start they wanted on Monday, the one they lacked in previous outings. They dictated the pace, established plenty of early offensive-zone time and created numerous scoring chances.
Lundqvist “makes incredible saves to keep them in the game, especially Game 6, the saves that he makes was very huge for them,” said Ovechkin, who recorded 13 hits but just one shot on goal in Game 7, and was held without a point for the fifth straight game in the series. “Maybe we tried too hard to put the puck in the net. Maybe we weren’t too loose to figure out how to do it. Even today, the first 10 minutes we were all over them and we didn’t score the goal.”
With just more than 13 minutes gone in the opening period, Mike Green jumped up on a partial breakaway. It was Washington’s best chance early on, but Lundqvist stopped the wrist shot easily and on the ensuing rush the Rangers pulled ahead.
Fourth-liner Arron Asham fired a well-placed shot high to Holtby’s glove side to hand New York a 1-0 lead with 13 minutes 19 seconds gone in the first — just nine seconds after Green’s prime opportunity at the opposite end.