Determined not to go down 3-0 in this best of seven series, the Rangers hit the ice at Madison Square Garden looking to hit the Caps and attack the goal. After being shut out in Game 2, the Rangers got the traffic that they wanted in front of Michal Neuvirth, firing off a series-high 35 shots on goal. With the two teams exchanging the first four goals, including a deflection by Alex Ovechkin and a powerplay conversion by Mike Knuble, the Rangers ended up sealing the game on a Brandon Dubinsky shot that deflected off of Karl Alzner and over an unsuspecting Neuvirth to go up 3-2 with 1:39 left to play in the game.
The Caps, who returned to DC for two days, will return to the Garden on Wednesday evening as they look to take a 3-1 series lead before heading back to DC for Saturday’s Game 5 contest at the Verizon Center.
The Good: Special Teams
With several opportunities to prove themselves today, the Caps penalty killers showed up to play, fending off 6 of 7 chances for the Blue-shirts. The Rangers only powerplay goal came on a sharp-angle, top-shelf snap shot by sharpshooter Erik Christensen 5 minutes into the second period, a shot that hit an impossible hole in Neuvirth. The Caps power play also showed some signs of life, converting on one of their four chances with Mike Knuble cleaning up in front of the net to tie the game at 2 late in the game. The Caps continue to roll with with the new-look, five-forwards approach to start their power play, with Mike Green coming in on the second wave to take over for Brooks Laich at the point.
The Bad: Who wants it more?
Aside from the grinding fourth line that got just under eight minutes of ice time, the Caps seemed to be out-hustled and outplayed by a more aggressive Rangers team today. The Rangers came out of the gate with an agenda to hit hard and get to the net to try to create traffic around Michal Neuvirth, and their efforts resulted in more shots on goal (WAS – 25, NYR – 35) and, consequently, more scoring chances. A let down in the defensive zone at the end of the second period led to a near (and I mean NEAR) score for the Rangers. With time running out, a deflection beat Neuvirth and hit the post before trickling as time expired. Video review from Toronto confirmed that the the period concluded as the puck was resting on the goal line, saving the Caps from heading to the locker room with a 2-1 deficit at the break.
The Ugly: Keeping the seats warm in the penalty box
After a relatively whistle-free first period, the referees found their stride with around 5 minutes left to go in the opening frame. It didn’t help that starting referee Chris Rooney was injured early in the second period and was replaced by standby ref Frederick L’Ecuyer. The refs called a total of 12 minor penalties (WAS – 8, NYR – 4), including two on Caps defenseman John Carlson. The whistle-blowing led to a series of tough penalty-kills for the Caps, including two 5-on-3 situations. The players’ and coaches’ frustration was quite evident, as Bruce Boudreau even voiced his displeasure to NBC sideline reporter Darren Pang during his in-game interview. When asked what the Caps could do change the flow of the game after falling behind 1-0, Boudreau responded “Well, we gotta stay out of the penalty box…but I mean, you know…they’re pretty ticky-tacky little calls out there for a playoff game.”