Caps enjoy second helping

Caps enjoy second helping
May 3, 2013, 12:45 am
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Relive the Caps Game 1 victory with Joe B.

For much of the last month of the regular season, the Capitals took their opponent to task in the second period.  They scored goals in bunches, they changed the momentum of games and, in general, did everything to twist fate in their favor. That trend continued Thursday night inside of Verizon Center, as Washington took the lead in its best-of seven series with the New York Rangers with a 3-1 victory.

This is the third straight playoff season in which these two clubs have met.  Last year in the Eastern Conference semifinals, the Rangers were victorious in a gripping seven-game series that featured six one-goal games.

If you judged this game by the opening seven minutes, it looked like an absolute certainty that the Caps would score the opening goal of the series.

After a four-day layoff waiting for the Game #1, the Rangers committed a too-many-men on the ice penalty only 34 seconds into the contest.

The Caps, with their league-best power-play salivating, would drive a few quality chances in the direction of Ranger goalie Henrik Lunquist, who deftly dealt with all of them.

Racing in off the left wing, Martin Erat had a wide-open 20 foot slapshot which Lundquist swallowed up with his catching glove. It was a remarkable save on one of the first nine shots of the game, all of which belonged to Washington.

With their MVP goalie sharp, the Rangers would get themselves on the scoreboard at 16:44 of the period.  When one team comes out firing at one end, it’s always tough on the goalie at the other end who doesn’t get a chance to get into the flow of the game.

That wasn’t the reason why one got past Braden Holtby.  It came via an unfortunate bounce. Rangers speedy forward Carl Hagelin scored off a wrap-around that banked in off the skate of Washington defenseman John Erskine.

Early in the second period with the Caps on the man-advantage, Hagelin took an errant Nicklas Backstrom pass and went racing off on a breakaway.  Holtby made a huge blocker-pad save or else his club would have been down by two.

The Rangers were the least-penalized team in the NHL during the regular season, but they went shorthanded four times in the first half of the game.

On that fourth man-advantage, Alex Ovechkin snuck in from his off-wing, half-board position to chip a rebound past a sprawling Lundquist at 6:59 of the middle period.

Shortly thereafter the Caps special teams came up large again, but this time it was the penalty-killers.

Washington staved off a two-man disadvantage for 56 seconds, the product of hard work, hustle, and a couple strong saves from Holtby.  John Carlson finished the night with six blocked shots, pacing the way for a Caps team that stuffed 25 of the Ranger attempts.

The game turned decisively with less than six minutes to go in the second period.  Steve Oleksy connected with Marcus Johansson on a pretty stretch-pass, from blue-line to blue line, which sent Johansson in alone on his Swedish countryman Lundquist.  Johansson beat the netminder with a quick release on his forehand.

It took only 46 seconds for the home team to strike again.  Jason Chimera turned and swept what looked like an innocent shot from along the boards that caught Lundquist napping, or expecting something else—like a pass.  Instead the goalie got caught “in between” and the puck squirted through him into the goal to set off bedlam inside Verizon Center.

Neither club would get on the board in the third period, which led to the 3-1 final count.  Holtby produced 35 saves in the contest, including one in the third period where he trapped a puck behind his back dangerously close to the meshing of the goal.  After video review proved inconclusive (the puck was not visible at all or not in relation to the goal-line), the no-goal call on the ice would stand, and the Caps breathed a sigh of relief, while Holtby took home first-star honors.

Game two of the series will be at Verizon Center Saturday afternoon at 12:30 p.m.  The game will air nationally on NBC.