And then, four minutes into the third, the Capitals’ vaunted power play unit had its first chance of the game. But the Rangers were up to the task, allowing only three shots during Derick Brassard’s penalty for interference. Seconds after he left the box, Brassard found himself all alone in front of Holtby and extended the New York lead to 3-1. The power play couldn’t have gone much worse for Washington, which is now 3 for 16 with a man-advantage in the postseason.
Here’s the rest of the best and worst moments from Game 2.
Best goalie duel: Henrik Lundqvist and Braden Holtby put on a show one day after Matt Harvey and Max Scherzer’s showdown at Citi Field. As good as Holtby was in stopping 32 of 35 shots, Lundqvist was better. In his 98th consecutive postseason start for the Rangers, Lundqvist made 30 saves, many spectacular.
Worst whiff: Alex Ovechkin fanned on a cross-ice pass from Marcus Johansson with 17 seconds to play, one of Washington’s many chances in a frenetic final two minutes. It would’ve been an incredible one-timer from Ovechkin, who has a way of making the incredible look routine, as he did earlier in the third period…
Best individual effort: The Capitals didn’t fold after Brassard’s goal. Their captain wouldn’t let them. A little more than four minutes after New York extended the lead to 3-1, Ovechkin took a pass from Joel Ward at center ice with a head of team, split Rangers defensemen Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi and, while falling to the ice, beat Lundqvist top shelf with a shot that defies logic. Ward and Brooks Orpik were credited with assists on the goal, but that was all Ovechkin. It was his seventh goal in six games against the Rangers this season, and his second of the series.
Best defense: The Capitals had one more chance to recreate Thursday’s late-game heroics after Jay Beagle won a faceoff in the Rangers zone following an icing call with 5.4 seconds to play. Ovechkin’s shot deflected to the corner, where Johansson tried to direct it to the front of the net. This time, three Rangers collapsed on him and prevented a scoring chance as the horn sounded.
Worst start: On Kentucky Derby Saturday, the Madison Square Garden organ blared a horse racing bugle call before the puck dropped. The Blue Shirts charged out of the gates like a horse possessed — a horse named Desperation. Thirty-eight seconds into Game 2, Chris Kreider gave the Rangers a 1-0 lead. New York entered the Capitals’ zone with an end-to-end pass and chip at the blue line. Holtby stoned Jesper Fast’s one-timer off a pass from Derek Stepan, but the rebound went to Kreider in front of a wide-open net. The Rangers would have the first four shots in the game.
Best special teams: The day began well for Washington special teams, and not only in New York. About a half-hour after the Redskins added Duke return man Jamison Crowder with their first pick of the fourth round of the NFL draft, the Capitals improved to 17 for 17 on the penalty kill this postseason. Washington killed off Karl Alzner’s interference penalty 7:14 into the first period and withstood a flurry of scoring chances after he exited the penalty box.
Worst inevitability: As NBC’s Kenny Albert noted, no team since the NHL doubled in size to 12 teams in 1967 had gone its first nine playoff games without allowing a power play goal. The Capitals’ streak ended at eight games when Dan Boyle whipped a shot past Holtby from the blue line at the 15:40 mark of the first period with Ward in the penalty box for hooking. The Rangers, who had the only three power plays in the first period, had a 2-0 lead. Washington killed off a fourth Rangers power play late in the third period.
Worst assist: Eric Clapton. Boyle’s goal came after Holtby made a nice save on Rick Nash in front of the net. Brouwer collected the puck and attempted to clear it, but it slowed as it trickled around the boards, allowing Boyle to stop it before it left the zone. NBC’s Pierre McGuire dubbed Boyle’s shot the “Eric Clapton Goal,” a reference to the concert at Madison Square Garden on Friday night that may have affected the ice conditions.
Best desperation: “We know the Rangers today, you’re going to see their absolute best this afternoon just because of the desperation factor,” Capitals Coach Barry Trotz said before Game 2. The Capitals got the Rangers’ best in the first period, as New York out-shot Washington 15-4 and had seven more scoring chances. “There’s more desperation to their game,” Trotz told McGuire early in the second period. “We knew the desperation level would be really, really high on them, and they came at us and obviously put ourselves in a hole.”
Best pass: Washington’s first scoring chance of the game came five minutes in, when Mike Green wheeled into the zone and flicked a backhand pass directly onto Ovechkin’s stick in front of the net.
Best save: Like his countryman Kuznetsov, who waited, waited, waited, and waited before flicking a shot past Jaroslav Halak for the NHL 94-style, game-winning goal against the Islanders in Game 7, Ovechkin showed great patience after receiving Green’s pass. Lundqvist went to the ice, but Ovechkin couldn’t elevate the puck. If Lundqvist chirped Ovechkin after the save, as Ovechkin did the Rangers goalie following his first-period goal on Thursday, NBC Sports’ microphones didn’t pick it up.
Best Pacquiao-Mayweather preview: There weren’t any fisticuffs in Game 2, but Chris Kreider put Ovechkin in a headlock after his first-period scoring chance.
Best use of the blocker: Ovechkin found Kuznetsov in front of the net with a nifty pass 11 minutes into the second period, but Lundqvist slid to his right and made a highlight reel-worthy windmill save with his blocker. Earlier in the period, Lundqvist used his blocker to bat a puck that deflected in the air off his glove out of harm’s way.
Best momentum shifter: Less than a minute after Marc Staal put Ovechkin on his back, Washington cut the lead in half. New York won a faceoff in the Washington zone, but Kuznetsov came away with the puck and skated, untouched, to the red line. He dumped the puck off the boards and Jason Chimera, who celebrated his 36th birthday Saturday, won the race and put a shot on net. The rebound came right to Kuzy, who beat Lundqvist to cut the Rangers lead to 2-1. This is definitely not the rookie’s first rodeo.
Best ping: Midway through the third period, Fast and Kreider nearly combined for a second goal, but Kreider’s wrist shot deflected off the post.
Best crowd support: The aforementioned Matt Harvey was at Madison Square Garden for Game 2. The Capitals could’ve used Max Scherzer, who said Ovechkin is the celebrity he’s most looking forward to meeting in D.C. (excluding President Obama). The Capitals could’ve really used Paul Pierce.
Worst bit: No amount of exclamation points will make up for the absence of capital letters, @nyrangers.