Washington takes Game 1 of its Eastern Conference quarterfinals series with New York, besting the Rangers, 3-1, to the delight of a boisterous sellout crowd at Verizon Center.
The game-winning goal came courtesy of a beautiful pass from defenseman Steve Oleksy to Marcus Johansson, and forward Jason Chimera provided some security 46 seconds later with a turnaround shot that seemed to catch Rangers goalie Henrik Lundvist by surprise.
With Washington goalie Braden Holtby in top form, that was all the Capitals would need. We’ll be back with another live blog for Game 2 Saturday afternoon here at Verizon Center. And be sure to check out washingtonpost.com/sports later tonight and tomorrow for plenty of content from Thursday’s Game 1 action.
Big win for Washington. Home teams that secure a victory in the first game have a 69-48 record in game two and have gone on to win 73 percent of the conference quarter-finals.
Surprisingly, the Rangers came into tonight’s game as the least penalized team in the league, but ended up taking six minor penalties.
The big match ups of the night were a draw. Alex Ovechkin won out over Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonaugh, lighting the lamp once and putting up another seven shot attempts, plus the Capitals’ captain dished out four hits. Rick Nash was able to power through the tandem of Mike Green and Karl Alzner, firing off 12 shots at net.
Washington has had 12 even-strength faceoffs in offensive zone, but Ovechkin-Backstrom-Johansson have been out for just one of them.
Coming into tonight’s game they had been getting one out of every three of their starts closer to the opposing goalie. Tonight they have three in defensive zone, one in the offensive zone and another one in the neutral zone.
The Capitals are still nursing that 3-1 lead over the New York Rangers with under nine minutes remaining in Game 1 of this Eastern Conference quarterfinals series. But they got a real scare after a careless turnover by forward Marcus Johansson.
The Rangers got a 2 on 1 off the mistake, but their ensuing shot dinged off the cross bar. They’ve got ‘Unleash the Fury’ playing on the videoboard here at Verizon Center. Should be a tense finish. Can the Caps get one more to put this one away?
Troy Brouwer has started five of his 11 even-strength face offs in the offensive zone. That’s a departure from the regular season, where he started in the offensive zone just 25.5 percent of the time.
Despite mostly starting 200 feet from the opposition’s net, Brouwer still managed nine goals and points on over 72 percent of Washington’s tallies when he was on the ice. Of the 15 other forwards (minimum 500 even-strength minutes) with less favorable starts, none had a better goals per 60 minute pace than Brouwer (0.9) this past year.
The action has been fast and furious here at Verizon Center, with both teams getting plenty of time on the power play thanks to ten penalties already. But even though the Capitals have been out-shot by New York since the opening ten minutes of the contest, they were the ones to light the lamp three times in the second period.
First, Alex Ovechkin scored off a rebound on the power play — Washington’s fourth of the game. Then, forwards Marcus Johansson and Jason Chimera scored within 46 seconds of one another during a disastrous sequence for the Rangers and goalie Henrik Lundvist.
Washington carries a 3-1 lead into the third period, and netminder Braden Holtby has been strong with 23 saves.
Washington came into this game behind the Rangers in shot generation but besting them in finishing ability, converting 10.8 percent of their shots compared to 8.5 percent for New York. The same is holding true tonight, where Washington has lit the lamp on three of their 23 shots while the Rangers are one for 24. In terms of shot attempts (including those missed and blocked), New York is all over Washington 54-38, plus the Blueshirts have a 19-9 advantage in blocked shots.
Rick Nash is getting some good looks going up against Karl Alzner and Mike Green. Nash leads all skaters with nine shot attempts.
Washington was 26-2-1 when they scored three or more goals during the regular season. In fact, the last time Washington scored three or more on New York and lost was on November 25, 2011.
Don’t give up on the Rangers yet though. Rick Nash has three goals and six points during even-strength when the Blueshirts trail by two or more while Brad Richards and Taylor Pyatt have each chipped in two goals apiece.
The Capitals just took their first lead of the playoffs, and they built on it in a flash.
First, at the 14:21 mark of the second period, defenseman Steve Oleksy found forward Marcus Johansson streaking down the ice with a beautiful long-range pass and the Swede lifted the puck under goalie Henrik Lundvists’s left arm and into the back of the net.
Forty six seconds later — as the Verizon Center public address announcer was recapping Washington’s second goal of the night — Capitals forward Jason Chimera fired a turnaround shot from the left wall and it too beat Lundqvist.
So it’s 3-1 Caps and the fans here are suddenly chanting, ‘Henrik, Henrik.’
By the way, Oleksy just had a puck hit him directly in the cheek while on the penalty kill. There was no blood and he skated off under his own power. The legend builds …
Coming into this game, the Blueshirts relied on Carl Hagelin (49 hits, 13 takeaways) and Ryan Callahan (154 hits, 23 takeaways, just 6 minor penalties) to set the tempo. So far Hagelin has neither a hit or a takeaway and Callahan has just one of each, along with picking up a roughing penalty midway through the second period.
Interesting sequence of events here at Verizon Center, and this sellout crowd just booed heartily to express their opinion on things.
Capitals forward Eric Fehr lost his stick and blocked a shot while on the penalty kill, but got tangled with Rangers captain Ryan Callahan in a scrum in front of Washington goalie Braden Holtby. The officials then called Fehr for both roughing and interference, while Callahan only got a roughing penalty.
Combined with a boarding penalty on Capitals forward Martin Erat moments earlier, it meant the Rangers had more than a minute of 5 on 3 play. But Washington managed to kill off both penalties, much to the delight of a now-raucous home crowd. Still tied at 1.
We’ve got a tie game here at the Verizon Center as the crowd chants, “Ovi, Ovi.”
With the Capitals on the power play 6:59 into the second period, center Nicklas Backstrom fed defenseman Mike Green for a slap shot from the point. Green’s attempt sailed wide but bounced off the boards and Ovechkin flicked the rebound past Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist. Score is 1-1. Assists to Green and Backstrom.
Washington surrendered the second most shots against on the penalty kill this season (272).
Goaltender Braden Holtby did his part saving 93 percent of those. Also instrumental was Matt Hendricks, who was the Caps best penalty killer in terms of shot suppression: only 1.8 shots against per two minutes when he skates versus two per two minutes when he is on the bench.
If your best penalty killer needs to be your goalie then Henrik Lundqvist fits the bill. He has saved 155 of 180 shots faced (.861) this season plus stopped all five of Washington’s power-play shots tonight.
Update: New York’s Arron Asham was just called for charging at the 6:26 mark of the second period. Caps are back on the power play for a fourth time tonight.
The Capitals once again couldn’t score given 1:27 of power play time to begin the second period. Alex Ovechkin appeared to have a clear shooting lane at one point, but his slap shot was blocked by a Rangers defensemen.
Washington is now 1-12 on the power play against the New York Rangers this year, but the Capitals will get a chance at redemption. At the 3:14 mark of the second period Rangers forward Taylor Pyatt was whistled for holding.
Update: Make that 1 for 13 on the power play against the Rangers this year. In fact, on this latest one, New York had several short-handed chances as the Capitals struggled to even set up in the Rangers zone.
Despite dominating large portions of the first period, the Capitals enter the locker room trailing the New York Rangers, 1-0, in Game 1 of this Eastern Conference quarterfinals series. Captain Alex Ovechkin got a golden opportunity late, but Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist made a dramatic toe save to maintain the early lead. However, New York defenseman Ryan McDonagh was called for holding, so Washington will enter the second period with 1:27 of power play time remaining. The Capitals are currently out-shooting New York, 14-8.
Jason Chimera, Mathieu Perreault and Eric Fehr chipped in six even-strength goals this season and were on the ice for just one against. Their strong play continues tonight against Michael Del-Zotto and Anton Stralman, where the trio have combined for four shot attempts (all from Eric Fehr) and have yielded just one to the Rangers.
Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonaugh have been ineffective against Alex Ovechkin so far: he has four shots and has been credited with three hits in 6:36 of ice time.
Braden Holtby has been able to keep the Capitals in games when they find themselves trailing. His even-strength save percentage is .944, fifth best in the NHL among netminders with at least 300 minutes in those situations.
Mike Green and Alex Ovechkin each have four even-strength goals this season when the Capitals are playing without the lead and Backstrom leads the team in points with nine.
The Rangers have taken a 1-0 lead on a wrap-around goal by forward Carl Hagelin 16:44 into the first period. It appears the puck deflected off the skate of Capitals defenseman John Erskine and past goalie Braden Holtby. Assists to Rangers forward Ryan Callahan and defenseman Ryan McDonagh.
New York has been awarded its first power play of the night at the 14:21 mark of the first period. Capitals forward Jay Beagle was whistled for boarding and heads to the penalty box for two minutes. Washington’s penalty kill was the fourth-worst in the NHL this season.
Here at the Verizon Center, they just showed former Caps forward Joé Juneau on the videoboard. It drew a rousing ovation from the sellout crowd. Like Coach Adam Oates, assistant Calle Johansson and associate goaltending coach Olaf Kolzig, Juneau was a member of the Capitals squad that made the Stanley Cup Finals 15 years ago. Colleague Barry Svrluga wrote about them eloquently earlier this week.
Through the first 10 minutes of the first period it has been all Washington, who lead the Rangers in shots 9-1, including a 6-1 advantage during even strength. That’s good news for a team that likely had to rely on their superior talent rather than trying to dominate play.
Ignoring special-teams play and lead-protecting situations, the Capitals had possession of the puck just 47.7 percent of the time this season, worst among playoff teams with the exception of Toronto (43.8 percent). The Rangers clocked in at 54 percent, fifth best in league.
Among the Rangers forwards who logged at least 500 even-strength minutes, only Derick Brassard hasn’t been on the ice for more shots for than against (47.9 percent). The next worst ratio among the Blueshirt forward corps is Taylor Pyatt at 52.8 percent. Derek Stepan leads the way for New York at 59.7 percent.
Nicklas Backstrom was best on Washington with 48.6 percent.
It didn’t take long for Washington’s potent power play to hit the ice. New York was called for too many men on the ice 34 seconds into this one. Both Eric Fehr and Alex Ovechkin got decent looks on slap shots from the slot, but Washington wasn’t able to net an early goal with the man advantage.
The Capitals had the league’s best power play this year, converting on 44 of their 164 opportunities. They also had the highest shooting percentage in the last 15 years among the NHL’s top power-play units at 20.1 percent.
Alex Ovechkin attempted 107 power-play shots in this 48-game shortened season. The rest of team had 202, with Troy Brouwer in second place with 42. Ovechkin’s 107 shot attempts during the man advantage also led league, with Flyers’ Jakub Voracek closest with 68.
The first power-play unit of Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Mike Ribeiro, Troy Brouwer and Mike Green have taken 68 shots and scored 19 goals (27.9 percent). Not bad.
After a longer-than-expected wait (thanks, NHL schedule makers), the lineups have been announced, the National Anthem has been sung and the puck has now been dropped here at the Verizon Center. Game 1 of this Eastern Conference quarterfinal series between the Washington Capitals and New York Rangers has begun.
And here’s Mike Wise with a prediction:
Derek Stepan led the Rangers with 44 points and 26 assists, and was second on the club with 18 goals (Rick Nash led the team with 21). The 22-year-old Stepan finished the regular season strong with eight goals and 19 points in the month of April, earning him the NHL’s third star for the month.
If history is a guide, Washington should match up John Carlson against Stepan’s line, having held him to just one assist and four shots over the last three years during even-strength.
With Carl Hagelin and Ryan Callahan on that line it makes even more sense: Carlson has kept them to just one even-strength assist collectively since 2010.
The official lineups for Game 1 of this Eastern Conference quarterfinal series have been released. No real surprises from either the Rangers or the Capitals.
As expected, New York will be without injured forwards Brian Boyle, Ryane Clowe and Derek Dorsett, as well as defenseman Marc Staal. The Capitals, meanwhile, have inserted forward Joel Ward back into the lineup on the fourth line after he missed the final six games of the regular season with a knee injury. Washington’s Braden Holtby and New York’s Henrik Lundvist will get the start in net.
Here’s a look at what the lines should look like for each team tonight based on what we saw at practice this week:
Marcus Johansson-Nicklas Backstrom-Alex Ovechkin
Martin Erat-Mike Ribeiro-Troy Brouwer
Jason Chimera-Matthieu Perreault-Eric Fehr
Matt Hendricks-Jay Beagle-Joel Ward
Karl Alzner-Mike Green
John Erskine-John Carlson
Jack Hillen-Steve Oleksy
Goal: Braden Holtby, Michal Neuvirth
Scratches: Aaron Volpatti, Woltek Wolski, Jeff Schultz and Tom Poti
Injured: Brooks Laich (sports hernia)
New York Rangers
Carl Hagelin-Derek Stepan-Ryan Callahan
Mats Zuccarello-Brad Richards-Rick Nash
Chris Kreider-Derick Brassard-Taylor Pyatt
Darrell Powe-Kris Newbury-Arron Asham
Ryan McDonagh-Dan Girardi
Michael Del Zotto-Anton Stralman
John Moore-Steve Eminger
Goal: Henrik Lundqvist; Martin Biron
Scratches: Matt Gilroy, Roman Hamrlik, Michael Haley
Injured: Marc Staal (eye), Ryane Clowe (undisclosed), Brian Boyle (right leg), Derek Dorsett (clavicle)
Hello everyone and thanks for joining us! Playoffs in DC are finally here, and game one is always important for the home team.
Historically, the “good guys” boast a 117-83 record in game one of the first round and have gone one to win the series almost 73 percent of the time after winning the opening tilt. That’s good news for Washington, who have a 5-1 postseason record against the Blueshirts at Verizon Center over the past two years.
Sarah Kogod is walking around Verizon Center and keeping an eye peeled for weirdness. So far, we have some guys on stilts, a long red playoff beard, and a possibly non-Caps related dancing person.
It might not be an anniversary Capitals fans want to celebrate, but it’s worth noting. A year ago today, the Rangers beat Washington in Game 3 of the 2012 Eastern Conference semifinals on a dramatic triple overtime goal from forward Marian Gaborik. Depressing video below:
Of course, Gaborik is no longer with the Rangers after New York sent him to Columbus as part of a trade deadline deal earlier this month in exchange for right wing Derek Dorsett, center Derick Brassard and defenseman John Moore. Gaborik scored 41 goals for the Rangers last season, but Coach John Tortorella actually thinks his lineup has more options and better balance these days.
“I couldn’t do anything within a game to create a push or change a line or whatever it may be, but I think we found that,” Tortorella said about the trade. “I’m hoping we get healthier and it’ll add some more, but it’s helped solidfy us.”
The record bears this out. After trading Gaborik, New York went 9-3-1 to close the regular season.
Coach Adam Oates was asked after today’s morning skate whether the Caps were anxious about the playoffs.
“Yeah, well anxious to get it over with,” Oates told reporters. “Like, when you play every single day all year long, four days is a long time. The guys are bored. They want to play. We’re bored. We’re over-prepared again. We are.”
Glad it’s not just me who’s bored. There are only so many Caps-Rangers preview stories you can write. Let’s get this show on the road already.
Greetings from Verizon Center, where the Caps and Rangers will soon face off for the third time in four postseasons.
But while the opponent is familiar, the Caps insist they’re not the same team anymore. Players say they’ve carried over Dale Hunter’s teachings of self-sacrificial play and discipline, but under Adam Oates, they’ve adapted a more balanced — and more fun to watch — style of play that should suit them well in the postseason.
The puck is scheduled to drop in an hour. Reporter Mark Giannotto and resident stats expert Neil Greenberg will be blogging live shortly before faceoff, and I’ll be chiming in from time to time as well. As always, you can chat about the game in the comments below.
And if you’re looking to kill some time, here’s some recommended reading from our playoff preview:
*Mike Wise on Alex Ovechkin growing into his role of captain.
*Katie Carrera on the Caps’ new perspective.