|Michal Neuvirth and the Caps shut out the Rangers Friday.|
The Rangers got off to a good start, getting the first scoring chance on a two-on-one that Michal Neuvirth had to do well with his blocker to deny. The Capitals tried to come back with a rush of their own soon after, but were not able to get much going and New York began to really carry the play. Washington was not able to get their first shot on goal until 6:05, but it was a good one, as Henrik Lundqvist had to make a nice save on Jason Chimera. The Caps slowly gained their footing, however, and were awarded the first power play of the game at 8:04 when Ryan McDonagh was boxed for interference. Despite some good looks on the man advantage, the Caps were not able to get any shots on goal. New York kept to take advantage of some sloppy zone play by the Capitals in the middle stages of the period, but Neuvirth continued to look strong in countering them. Inside five minutes remaining, Washington got some pressure off a nice shift from the Chimera-Laich-Johansson line, but could not convert as Lundqvist made another nice save. The Capitals were penalized at 17:52 when Matt Bradley was called for charging in the offensive zone, and they got a great chance from Mike Knuble on a shorthanded rush that the winger simply could not convert. Washington was able to kill of the rest of the penalty effectively, and the first period ended with deadlocked at 0.
The Capitals came out hard in the second, taking advantage of some New York turnovers to get some chances in front that were either blocked or missed the net. But Washington kept coming early, and Jason Chimers was able to pot a goal at 2:11 off some great work down low by Brooks Laich and Marcus Johansson. New York then took a penalty when Ryan McDonagh was given another penalty, a roughing call, at 2:59. The Caps took full advantage this time as Jason Arnott banged home a rebound of a Mike Green shot at 4:08 to extend the Washington lead to 2-0. With those two goals in just under two minutes, John Tortorella was forced to call his timeout to try and calm his men down. Washington then really picked up their defensive zone play, keeping the Rangers to the outside, and the frustrated New Yorkers took another penalty at 10:45 when Ruslan Fedotenko was sent off for high-sticking. Given a chance to really stop on the Rangers, however, the Caps were not able to convert again as Lundqvist regained his footing and made a few nice saves. As the period continued, the Caps kept frustrating the Rangers with excellent play in their own zone, not letting New York get anything to the middle and giving Michal Neuvirth ample time to see everything. However, they were called for a penalty at 18:11 when Alexander Semin was boxed for hooking. The Capitals had no trouble with the first minute and 49 seconds of the penalty, however, and the second period ended with DC up 2-0.
After killing off the final 11 seconds of the Ranger power play to open the third period, the Capitals continued to control puck possession and set the tempo of the game in the early stages of the stanza. With about four minutes gone, the Rangers got a nice chance in front, but it was eaten up by Matt Hendricks. The Rangers then really ramped up their pressure, throwing bodies and shots at the net and really putting Washington on their heels, but the defense and Neuvirth were able to fend them off despite a few very close chances. The speed of the game picked up rapidly, and Neuvirth was called on again with nine minutes remaining to make a nice save on Marian Gaborik point-blank; the Czech responded admirably with a fantastic challenge. Immediately after, Alex Ovechkin was sprung by Karl Alzner on a breakaway, but Lundvist was able to get his pad across in time to deny the Captain. Clearly desperate now, New York began to come at the Caps in waves, throwing men forward and pulling their goaltender with 2:14 remaining. The Capitals defense held firm, however, and the Caps skated away with a 2-0 series lead.
Another amazing game from Michal Neuvirth. The rookie recorded his sixth professional playoff shutout, and first one at the NHL level, making 22 saves. Among those 22 were several huge ones in the middle frame and towards the end of the game when the Rangers got desperate and really started to come at the Capital defense. Again, he showed why he was given game one and he has, for now, vanquished all doubters. This is his net, and he is not keen on giving it away.
It's been said forever that teams willing to do the dirty work win in the playoffs. Both Capitals goals tonight and now three of the four have been scored from below the faceoff circles. Coincidence? Um, no. Washington has guys who are willing to go down in front of the net, and it is paying off. Now, they just have to keep doing it, and they will continue to reap the rewards.
Overall, this was another rock-solid playoff hockey game from the Caps. They came out rather slow, but picked it up admirably in the second period, which they dominated from start to finish. By the time the Rangers had a chance to pick it up again, it was too late, and the Caps frustrated them tremendously with their shot-blocking and excellent zone play. This is how you do it.
The Capitals will practice at 12 noon tomorrow off before they travel to New York City and prepare for Sunday's game three. That game is scheduled for 3 PM and will be broadcast nationally by NBC.