Quick strikes boost Capitals to 2-0 series lead

Quick strikes boost Capitals to 2-0 series lead
April 16, 2011, 1:59 am
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Friday, April 15, 2011, 10:08 p.m.
Updated 11:49 p.m.

By Ryan OHalloran
Even though it remains early in this years Stanley Cup playoffs, its come to this for the Capitals: They can post a shutout, score on the power play, allow minimal chances and still talk about the negatives.

That should be considered a good thing, because it shows this group isnt content even though it defeated the New York Rangers, 2-0, Friday to capture the first two games of the teams Eastern Conference quarterfinal series.

We were a little lackadaisical in the third, center Jason Arnott said.

They were coming on, and we were hanging on; the whole third period was played in our zone, coach Bruce Boudreau said.

We had a couple breakdowns, but they come at you in waves, center Boyd Gordon said.

Maybe the Capitals really have changed their mentality. Maybe they are ready to show how much theyve matured and that they can handle prosperity and not allow a team back in a series.

We obviously arent hanging our hat, but we wanted to make sure we got off to a good start in this series because theyre a dangerous team, defenseman Mike Green said. We expect their best in Game 3.

Jason Chimera and Arnott scored 1 minute, 57 seconds apart early in the second, and goalie Michal Neuvirth stopped 22 shots for his first postseason shutout.

The series now shifts to New York for Game 3 Sunday at 3 p.m. and Game 4 Wednesday at 7 p.m.

The Capitals took a 2-0 series lead for the ninth time in franchise history, but theyve lost five of those series, including a seven-game thriller to Pittsburgh two years ago.

Dating back to their playoff series two years ago, the Capitals have won five straight games over the Rangers by a combined score of 15-4.

New York doesnt appear to have the firepower necessary to defeat the Capitals and their airtight defense, so it will need Henrik Lundqvist to steal a game before things get really out of hand.

Im not upset with the team; by no means are we down, Rangers coach John Tortorella said. We need to get some momentum on our side, and thats the greatest thing about a series if you find a way to win a hockey game, momentum goes to your side and then you try to keep it.

The Rangers buzzed in the first period with 13 shots, but had just nine over the final 40 minutes.

The Capitals took over the play early in the second period with two quick goals.

Chimera scored his second career playoff goal when Brooks Laich won a battle against Rangers defenseman Matt Gilroy behind the net. While on the ice, Laich one-handed a pass to Marcus Johansson, and Chimera one-timed Johannsons feed from the slot.

Forty-eight seconds later, Gordon drew a post-whistle penalty on Ryan McDonagh.

We want to play smart hockey, Gordon said. Every situation is different, but we just want to play our game and not get caught up in it.

The Capitals cashed in with their first power-play strike of the series (they were 1-for-33 in last years meltdown against Montreal), but they needed a good bounce.

Greens slap shot from Lundqvists right side hit traffic and ricocheted across the zone to Arnott, who, like Chimera, used the one-timer to make it 2-0.

I saw Green wind up and shoot it and it just happened to land on my stick and I knew Lundqvist was down and out and thats usually the only way we can beat him, Arnott said.

Even though 36 minutes remained, that was pretty much it for the Rangers.

For five or six minutes, they surged on us, Tortorella said. We have no room for any mistakes when you dont score a goal or just score one as in Game 1.

Neuvirth made the lead hold up and has stopped 46 of 47 shots in the opening two games.

Just rock solid, Arnott said. Hes taken the leadership role of a top-end goalie.

The series now shifts to New York two years ago, the Capitals went 2-1 at Madison Square Garden to offset losing the first two games at home.

Its going to be tough, Arnott said. Their fans are as loud as they are here. We have to go in there and pretend its the beginning of the series.

Contact OHalloran at rohalloran@comcastsportsnet.com.