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Caps Open With a Thud

Theodore Blames Himself After Loss in Game 1 Against Rangers

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Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Washington Capitals outplayed the New York Rangers for most of the night. They outshot them by a wide margin, dominated them in the faceoff circle and edged them in hits.

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But the Capitals struggled at the one position that can hurt a team the most this time of year: in goal.

José Theodore accepted the blame for last night's 4-3 loss in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals, saying in a hushed home locker room at Verizon Center, "I wasn't good enough."

The 32-year-old veteran was a question mark for the Capitals entering the postseason, given his uneven regular season. His performance against a Rangers team that struggled to score in the regular season will do little to allay those concerns.

"For playoff hockey, obviously, [I was] not good enough," said Theodore, who faced only 21 shots and yielded power-play goals by Nik Antropov and Markus Naslund on back-to-back shots late in the second period. "They only had a couple of shots in the first, and after that I tried to find a rhythm. I'm not happy with my game. I wasn't good enough. But in the playoffs, you bounce back and that's it -- you have to turn the page."

Magnifying Theodore's poor performance was the play of Henrik Lundqvist, who made 32 saves for the Rangers, including all 14 shots he faced during a first period in which Alex Ovechkin pressed frantically for the game's opening tally. Ovechkin outshot the entire Rangers team, 6-4, in the opening 20 minutes. But Lundqvist turned each of them aside -- and he made it look effortless.

"He's right," Coach Bruce Boudreau said when he was told that Theodore shouldered the blame for the loss. "You need the save and he didn't make the save. But I'm sure he's going to bounce back. He's a professional. He's played this game long enough, I'm sure he feels bad enough."

Boudreau said he did not consider pulling Theodore and replacing him with 20-year-old rookie Simeon Varlamov because "you never want to look like you're panicking. And that's how that would have looked to me."

Pressed about the possibility of turning to future franchise goalie Varlamov, Boudreau added: "There's a chance anything can happen. When you lose, you make changes. I'm not saying in goal. But I mean, there's a chance for changes in a couple of positions."

Brandon Dubinsky broke a tie game with 8 minutes 17 seconds left to play after two quick passes out of the Rangers' zone put the puck on his stick near the Capitals' bench.

Dubinsky cut to the middle, turning defenseman Jeff Schultz inside out. Schultz stumbled and fell while Dubinsky raced into the Washington zone and fired a wrist shot from the circle over Theodore's glove.

"This is the NHL, you get beat one-on-one, you can't hide from that," Boudreau said of Schultz. "That's not an error of anything other than he didn't get the job done on that play."

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