Caps get a late power play

Alex Ovechkin forces Brad Richards to take a high stick skating through the neutral zone with less than two minutes remaining. Washington’s top ranked power play will be on the ice for the remainder of regulation, and Coach Adam Oates has called a timeout to set things up. Rangers lead 4-3 with one minute, 54 seconds left in the third period of Game 3.

Washington’s third goal credited to Jay Beagle

It appears Jack HIllen’s first career playoff goal was too good to be true. Capitals forward Jay Beagle is now being credited with Washington’s third goal of the game. He must have tipped Hillen’s wrist shot. Still 4-3 Rangers with about two minutes remaining in regulation.

Four goals usually enough for Rangers

The New York Rangers are 16-0-0 this year when they get four or more goals. Washington was 2-11 when they yielded four or more.

Rangers strike back, take 4-3 lead

Moments after New York winger Rick Nash shanked a point blank shot on Washington netminder Braden Holtby, he finally made his mark on this Eastern Conference quarterfinals series.

A pass from Nash set up Rangers center Derek Stepan for a goal 13 minutes, 35 seconds into the third period. New York now leads the Capitals 4-3 with about six minutes remaining in regulation. Can Washington erase its third one-goal deficit of the night to force overtime? Stay tuned …

Update: We should note John Carlson and John Erskine were on the ice for both third-period goals. After handling Coach John Tortorella’s forecheck with ease the first two games of the series, Washington’s blueliners have struggled at times to clear the zone.

Rick Nash won’t stay cold for long

Braden Holtby makes a nifty left pad save on Rick Nash’s two on one with Ryan Callahan.

Nash has taken 31 shot attempts (15 on net) in three games but has yet to light the lamp. It is only a matter of time before the perennial 30-goal scorer starts to find his way onto the scoresheet.

Of Nash’s 21 goals this season, eight are from the off-wing face off dot and seven are within a few feet of the goal crease. Washington will want to make sure Nash doesn’t find his groove in either of those two spots.


Caps tie it again

Defenseman Jack Hillen’s first career playoff goal couldn’t have come at a better time for the Capitals.

After a faceoff win by center Matt Hendricks, Hillen fired an innocent looking (but bouncing) wrist shot through traffic and New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist couldn’t stop it seven minutes, 19 seconds into the third period.

Game 3 is now tied at 3 with less than 11 minutes remaining in regulation. Just as I typed that, Rangers forward Rick Nash skated in on a 2 on 1 and shanked his shot. Holtby came up with an easy save.


Rangers take a 3-2 lead

A poor shift by Washington’s fourth line and the defensive pairing of John Carlson and John Erskine costs the Capitals.

After Washington failed to clear the puck or win a battle along the boards, New York’s Derek Brassard received a pass behind Braden Holtby’s net. He then promptly fed the puck to linemate Arron Asham for a one-timer that Holtby had no chance on with 17 minutes, seven seconds remaining in the third period.The Rangers now have a 3-2 lead.

Green helps Caps dodge a bullet

(Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)


Mike Green may have saved the game for Washington with his late second period goal.

The Rangers went 16-0-0 during the regular season when they had a lead entering the third period. As a team, the Blueshirts outshot opponents during even-strength 153-131 when they nursed a one-goal lead. Washington, on the other hand, was outshot 204-253 when they trailed by one.


Caps and Rangers tied at 2 entering third period

(Ray Stubblebine/Reuters)


For a time in the second period, it looked as if Washington might get blown out of Madison Square Garden thanks to a barrage of penalties. But the Capitals managed to minimize the damage, allowing only a goal by Derek Brassard despite taking three penalties in the first seven minutes of the period. Washington has committed six penalties overall.

Capitals defenseman Mike Green then tied the score at two late in the second period with a blast that beat New York goalie Henrik Lundqvist’s glove top shelf. Are we due for another overtime game or can the Caps secure a 3-0 series that seemed improbable as they marched to the penalty box less than an hour ago? Should be an exciting 20 minutes coming up.

Neil’s take:

Green is having a strong game: goal, five shot attempts, team high 15:25 and a whopping plus-12 Corsi. The Rangers have seven skaters logging at least three minutes playing against Green during even-strength. Torts is trying everything he can to find a match up he can get the better of but so far Green is outplaying them all.

Some bloggers have a grass roots effort to log scoring chances. So far Washington appears to be on top.



High glove side a soft spot for Lundqvist

That last goal by Mike Green was right in the soft spot on Henrik Lundqvist.

Mike Green ties it at 2 for Caps

Jason Chimera celebrates Mike Green’s goal. (Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)


Mike Green might just have Henrik Lundqvist’s number. He just blasted a beauty of a wrist shot past Lundqvist, beating New York’s goalie top shelf to tie the score at 2 in this Eastern Conference quarterfinals series between the Capitals and Rangers. Green, of course, also had the overtime game winner Saturday at Verizon Center.

Washington’s third line of Matthieu Perreault, Eric Fehr and Jason Chimera were on the ice for Green’s latest laser, and there’s an argument to be made that they have been the Capitals’ most effective line throughout this series so far. They’ve certainly picked up where they left off when Washington surged through the final month of the regular season.

Lundqvist making big saves for Rangers

After a cavalcade of penalties to begin the second period, the Capitals seemed to seize the momentum again with a few golden chances, including a couple on a power play. But Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist has been up to the task so far. In the past few minutes he has stopped two point blank shots from Troy Brouwer (off some slick power play passing by Matthieu Perreault) and one via Mike Ribeiro (off a slick pass by Ovechkin).

Lundqvist currently has 17 saves and counting. Still 2-1 Rangers late in the second period.

All things considered …

(Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)


The Caps have taken six penalties, including three in the first seven minutes of the second period (some more questionable than others), and yet still trail New York 2-1. All things considered, that’s not bad given the parade to the penalty box. How do you feel about what’s taken place tonight?

In case you were wondering, Washington was whistled for six penalties in a game four times this season. The Capitals took seven penalties once during the regular season and had a season-high eight penalties called on them back on Jan. 31 in a loss to Toronto.

Rangers take a 2-1 lead on the Caps

(Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)


Well, the Capitals started the second period by picking up where they left off in the second period … taking penalties. After a tripping penalty by Braden Holtby gave the Rangers their fourth power play of the night, forward Mats Zuccarello fed Derek Brassard in the slot and his shot knuckled past Holtby to give New York a 2-1 lead.

A little more than a minute later, a shot by Brad Richards beat Holtby and hit the post. Then, Washington committed another penalty. New York is back on the power play with 16 minutes, 46 seconds remaining in the second period.

John Erskine doesn’t return for start of second period

As the Capitals emerged from the tunnel at Madison Square Garden for the start of the second period, John Erskine wasn’t among them.

The veteran defenseman missed the final 4:18 of the first after taking a big hit by Ryan Callahan deep in the Washington zone. Erskine missed 12 games in the regular season with an upper-body injury.

Update: Erskine is back on the bench early in the second period. We’ll see how much he plays the rest of the way and whether he’s affected by whatever ailment he suffered.

Caps taking penalties by the bushel

With New York’s power-play unit struggling in this series the last thing Washington wants to do is give them more practice, but the Capitals are doing just that, taking three penalties in the first period and another one early in the second period.

The Rangers were 19-9-2 during the regular season when they got four or more opportunities with the man advantage and scored multiple power-play goals in four of those games.

John Erskine misses end of first period after hit by Ryan Callahan

Capitals defenseman John Erskine didn’t take a shift in the final 4 minutes 18 seconds of the first period here at Madison Square Garden after absorbing a big hit from New York Rangers captain Ryan Callahan.

The hit occurred at the 15:37 mark of the opening frame and Erskine immediately went to the Capitals’ bench, where he remained for the rest of the period. We’ll have to wait and see if he returns in the second period.

Caps and Rangers tied at 1 entering 2nd period

We’re all tied at one after one period of action during Game 3 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals series between the Washington Capitals and New York Rangers.

The Capitals scored a little more than four minutes into the first period when center Nicklas Backstrom tipped a wrist shot by defenseman John Carlson past Rangers netminder Henrik Lundqvist. But New York scored the equalizer on its first successful power play of the series, when forward Brian Boyle beat Capitals goalie Braden Holtby short side with seven minutes, 10 seconds remaining in the opening frame.

The Capitals seemed to dictate the action to start this one off, but their momentum was derailed by three trips to the penalty box in the first 20 minutes. The Rangers ended up out-shooting (14-10) and out-hitting (16-8) Washington in the first period.

Neil’s take:

As expected, the Staal-Stralman is struggling at even-strength, having been on the ice for a 10-3 shot attempt differential for a minus-7 Corsi.

Washington blueliner Jack Hillen, on the other hand, is having success (plus-8 Corsi) against the Darroll Powe-Brian Boyle-Arron Asham line.

Rangers captain Ryan Callahan has dished out almost as many hits (5) as the opposition (8).

New York had almost as many power-play shots in the first period (7) as they had in first two games combined (10).

Way too many men on the ice

Courtesy of @japersrink, a look at that too many men on the ice penalty from the first period. Something tells me the officials are going to regret this call between periods.

Rangers tie it at 1

After more than 124 minutes of game action, the Rangers finally scored a goal on Capitals netminder Braden Holtby. With New York on the power play, Rangers center Brian Boyle skated in and lifted a puck over Mike Green that beat Holtby short side to tie the score at one with 7:10 remaining in the first period.

To make matters worse, New York is now back on the power play after Washington was whistled for too many men on the ice. Replays seem to show New York had like a thousand guys on the ice, too. Craig Laughlin is as incredulous as Craig Laughlin gets right now. Less than six minutes remaining in the first period.

Erskine and Carlson solidify Washington’s penalty kill

(Rob Carr/Getty)

The Capitals were terrible on the penalty kill over the first 11 games. They allowed 15 power-play goals on 51 chances (70.5 percent) and saw their record fall to 2-8-1. Fast forward to the present and it is one of this team’s greatest strengths, killing all eight penalties they have faced so far in this series.

John Erksine and John Carlson have played some big minutes on the penalty kill, each logging over eight of the 13 minutes Washington has spent down a man in the first two games. They each have played 1:05 tonight.

Rangers could be down a forward

Rangers fourth line forward Darroll Powe delivered a jarring hit along the glass to Capitals winger Joel Ward, but it appears Powe took the brunt of the damage. He just skated off and looked to be in considerable pain.

Though the Capitals looked sloppy on their first power play of the evening facing some heavy pressure from New York’s penalty kill, Washington has controlled play early. Much of the action has been in the Rangers zone thanks to some strong shifts by the Capitals grinders. Forward Jason Chimera even hit the crossbar with a shot at one point.

Still 1-0 Washington, but New York is headed to the power play with a little over nine minutes remaining in the first period.

A quick look at the Staal-Stralman pairing

Head coach John Torterella will pair Marc Staal with Anton Stralman, and that could be good news for Caps fans.

Ignoring special-teams play, the Rangers have possession of the puck just 45.0 percent of the time when they put the Staal-Stralman pair on the ice. That’s worse than when Staal has been away from Stralman (50.6 percent) or Stralman away from Staal (51.1 percent).

In the first eight minutes Stralman has been on the ice for five shots against (including the goal scored by Backstrom) and just one for. Staal has a minus-2 shot differential.

Backstrom gives Caps 1-0 lead

Just after killing Ovechkin’s penalty, Washington grabbed hold of the lead in Game 3. A wrist shot by defenseman John Carlson from above the right faceoff circle was tipped by center Nicklas Backstrom in the air and past a helpless Henrik Lundvist.

The officials reviewed to make sure Backstrom’s stick wasn’t too high, and the goal stood. So 1-0 Caps at the 4:06 mark of the opening period.


The Rangers (finally) got a shot on Holtby

Something truly revelatory happened one minute, 45 seconds into Game 3 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals series between the Washington Capitals and New York Rangers. The Rangers registered a shot on goal, courtesy of an early first period power play after a roughing penalty on Alex Ovechkin.

Usually this isn’t worthy of any entire post, but New York went the final 17 minutes, 43 seconds of Game 2 without getting a shot on net. In fact, the Rangers had just five shots on goal during the entire third period and overtime of Game 2, and that included two power plays.

So officially, the Rangers went 19 minutes, 28 seconds between shots on goal in this series. But they’re still at 114 minutes and counting without lighting the lamp since Washington killed off the penalty.

Faceoffs key to turning New York’s power play around

Every team would like to score more with the man advantage, but the Rangers are probably more desperate than most. They find themselves down two games to one to the Washington Capitals, have scored just one goal this series and are 0-for-7 on the power play. They need offense – fast.

The first step to getting the power play on track would be to initiate possession of the puck and take control of the offensive zone right from the opening faceoff.

Derek Stepan and Brad Richards went a combined 89 for 201 (44 percent) on power-play faceoffs during the regular season and are winning just 50 percent in the postseason. That’s one reason why the Blueshirts are fourth worst among playoff teams for shots per two minutes of ice time with the man advantage (1.5) and one of two teams (Minnesota) without a power-play goal.

The talent is there for the power play to be successful, but the Blueshirts need to bring it together in a hurry.

Game 3 is underway

The puck has been dropped on Game 3 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals between the Washington Capitals and New York Rangers. Can the Caps take a 3-0 lead and effectively grab a stranglehold on this series? Or will New York’s offense awake from the dead at a packed Madison Square Garden?

Stay tuned here for plenty of updates.

Caps play some pregame catch

Soccer isn’t everyone’s pregame sport of choice. Here’s Steve Oleksy and Aaron Volpatti getting loose before Game 3 at Madison Square Garden.

(Getty Images)

Boz on the Caps’ so-called curse

(Getty Images)


It’s true that the Caps don’t exactly do well with 2-0 series leads, but don’t call it a curse. From Thomas Boswell’s Q&A earlier today:

Q: When the Capitals went up 2-0, I said to some newbie that I think we have been here before so don’t count chickens etc.. (I’ve been a Caps fan since 1990.) And then this morning Barry wrote a whole article about it. Thanks to the Post for such good writing, even though it was a buzzkill to those new fans. We fans care about what happened 20 years ago, but do you think it should matter to those on the team that we in kindergarten back then, i.e. does the curse follow for generations?

A: I hate, hate, hate the Capitals so-called curse. It is old, worn out, uninteresting and almost vindictive. Yes, it was good to write about it because it is part of SPORTS history __not just Washington or NHL history. The Capitals list of failures is so enornous and has pushed the edges of belief so many times that it is one of the all-time measuring sticks for…well, we all know for what.

But it also needs to be laid to rest. When I covered the Caps run to the Stanley Cup Finals, I thought it was over back in Oates’s time as a player.

I think the Caps will win two rounds and regain every ounce of the dignity that seemed lost for this group early in ’13. Will they go further? Lets see how they play, who stays healthy, etc.

But people who keep asking, “Will the Caps gag,” instead of actually watching what they are doing and how ungodly hot they are with a 2-0 start against the Rangers…well, all I can say is, “Watch what is actually happeniung NOW, not what has happened in the past.”


McDonagh is a three-minute man

(Mark Tenally/Associated Press)

Playing big minutes is not new to Rangers’ blueliner Ryan McDonagh, who averages over 24 minutes per night playing against the opposition’s best forwards. And while the 23-year-old blueliner claims fatigue was not a factor in his delay of game penalty that helped Washington take a 2-0 in the series, you have to think that playing a 3:04 shift in overtime didn’t help his cause.

Over the past two seasons, McDonagh’s average shift length has been 51 seconds, but he was already on the ice for 1:37 when Rangers head coach John Torterella used his timeout after the Rangers iced the puck late in OT, which kept McDonagh and his linemates on the ice for the ensuing faceoff. However, Washington head coach Adam Oates cagily lined up Jason Chimera, Mathieu Perreault and Eric Fehr instead of his top line, who had been getting a breather for over a minute. That meant Torts was faced with a choice: continue to leave his top defensive pair of McDonagh-Girardi on the ice until Oates made the line change for Ovechkin or put a less-skilled, but more rested, pair against the Capitals top line when they come over the boards. New York’s coach choose poorly, and Gabe Dejardins explains why:

[T]he break-even point [on the percentage of shots for and against] is around 40 seconds, which is roughly the average even-strength shift length league-wide, and things fall apart after that.

By 70 seconds, only 40% of total shots are shots for. To put that in perspective, only the absolute worst players in the NHL have shot totals at that level – 40% for, 60% against. Staying on the ice even just a bit beyond a minute usually turns the average NHL player into a defensive catastrophe on the scale of Wade Belak.

McDonagh ended up committing a giveaway about two minutes into his extended shift before a stoppage in play resulted in a faceoff where he (finally) was matched up with the top line of Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Marcus Johansson. Then we saw the following sequence:

Mike Green took a slap shot that went wide. Johansson had a shot blocked by Anton Stralman. Henrik Lundqvist stopped wristers by Karl Alzner, Ovechkin and Green within 24 seconds. Green would then fire a wrister on net, giving Washington six shot attempts in one minute before McDonaugh is called for his delay of game.

Washington would end up taking all eight shots in the extra frame, including the game-winning, power-play goal from Green. One in which Oates should certainly get an assist.

Game 3 lineups

The lineups have been released for Game 3 and the biggest change is the return of Rangers defenseman Marc Staal. Forward Ryane Clowe remains out. Washington, meanwhile, will keep things exactly the same after taking a 2-0 lead in this series. Here’s what the lines and pairings should look like tonight:

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: Holtby, Neuvirth
Scratches: Brooks Laich (groin), Aaron Volpatti, Wojtek Wolski, Jeff Schultz and Tom Poti

Rick Nash-Derek Stepan-Ryan Callahan
Carl Hagelin-Brad Richards-Mats Zuccarello
Taylor Pyatt-Derick Brassard-Derek Dorsett
Darroll Powe-Brian Boyle-Arron Asham

Ryan McDonagh-Dan Girardi
Marc Staal-Anton Stralman
Michael Del Zotto-John Moore

Goal: Lundqvist, Biron.
Scratches: Ryane Clowe (undisclosed), Steve Eminger, Chris Kreider, Kris Newbury, Roman Hamrlik, Micheal Haley.

Stats on Rangers’ side for Game 3

(AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)


The Rangers, an Original Six franchise that first took the ice in 1926, have come back from an 0-2 deficit to win a playoff series one time: beating the Montreal Canadiens 4-2 in the 1996 Conference Quarter-Finals, when they lost the first two at home.

But that doesn’t mean they should be a longshot to win Game 3.

Overall, NHL teams faced with a two-game deficit have a 36-33 Game 3 record in the first round. Washington has had more difficult challenges, losing all six games that would have given them a commanding 3-0 lead in the series.

Will Rangers get Clowe and Staal back for Game 3?

We’re back for our Game 3 live blog and the biggest pre-game question is the same as Game 2: What the heck will the Rangers lineup look like?

Of course, Rangers Coach John Tortorella refuses to discuss such things publicly during the playoofs. But in Game 2 New York welcomed back forwards Brian Boyle and Derek Dorsett and it appears forward Ryane Clowe and defenseman Marc Staal could follow suit Monday night with the Rangers facing a crucial game at Madison Square Garden.

Clowe told reporters following today’s morning skate that he was still unsure about his status for Game 3, but some have already penciled him back onto New York’s fourth line.

Staal, meanwhile, could be closer than ever to returning from an eye injury that has sidelined him since March 5, according to ESPN’s Katie Strang.

Clowe, who was part of the trade deadline deal that sent Marian Gaborik to Columbus, had three goals and 16 assists this season. Staal had two goals and nine assists this year, and he has been one of New York’s top defensemen (and someone Tortorella tasks with trying to slow down Alex Ovechkin) in recent years. But it remains to be seen just how effective he could be after such a long layoff.

We’ll have more when the official Game 3 lineups are released before faceoff.

Update: Staal is on the ice for New York’s warmups. Looks like he could make his 2013 playoffs debut tonight.

Caps up 2-0, but history isn’t their friend

Greetings from Madison Square Garden the couch.

Katie Carrera and Tracee Hamilton make up the Post contingent at tonight’s Game 3 in New York, but those of us here at home will still be bringing you live updates, analysis and fancy stats all game long.

Mark Giannotto and Neil Greenberg will be your hosts tonight, and we’ll get started soon.

Until then, some reading material: Washington has a 2-0 lead on the Rangers, but as Barry Svrluga writes, past experience proves this first-round series is far from over.

Since the NHL made all playoff series best-of-seven in 1987, the Capitals have taken a 2-0 lead six times. They have lost four of those series. They have lost four of 10 series in which they led 3-1. That’s some significant pain over the past quarter-century.

To be sure, these Capitals have memories of establishing a lead in the playoffs, and then closing out the opponent. In 2011, they took the first two games against the Rangers at home, and won the series in five, perhaps their high-water mark as a postseason team.

But this is a different group with a different leader. “We’ll talk about it,” said Coach Adam Oates, in his first year since taking over for Dale Hunter, who took over for Bruce Boudreau, who started this run. There is, the Capitals believe, a proper way to approach their current situation, and it is not to exhale.

Check out the full story here.