The New York Rangers surged to a strong first period, but couldn't score and couldn't come up with a key road win in Game 2 of their playoff series against the Washington Capitals. Here's how it all went down at Verizon Center Friday night.
What It Means: The 2-0 series deficit is troubling, but not completely damning. More concerning is the Rangers' inability to mount much in the way of consistent offense against a stalwart Caps defense. The pressure is certainly on now for the Rangers to score, and win, when they return to the Garden. If they can’t win Sunday and Wednesday, Washington will head back to D.C. with a chance to clinch the series. If the Rangers don't win either, well, I think you know what happens then.
Start Me Up: The Rangers jumped out on the Caps and outshot them 13-7 in the first period. They also outhit them 18-11 and on every shift it seemed the Rangers were showing physicality and snarl. It was the ideal first period for a team on the road, except for one thing -- the first 20 minutes ended 0-0.
Well That Was Fast: After a strike from Jason Chimera at 2:11 of the second period to open the scoring, Ryan McDonagh got clipped for a minor penalty after flattening Boyd Gordon after the whistle during a crease-top scrum. The Caps took advantage after a deflected shot from Mike Green caromed straight to Jason Arnott in the slot who hammered it into a gaping net for the PPG. The two goals proved more than enough for Washington.
The Caps really throttled the Rangers in the second, limiting New York to only three shots on goal, despite a power play to close out the period. Trailing 2-0, it was not a pretty picture entering the third period and it didn't get any prettier as the Rangers mustered just six more shots on goal for the game, though they had a few decent chances late.
The Final Push: Around the 12-minute mark in third, the Rangers found their stride again and generated some sustained offense and, if not for John Erskine's shin pads, would have scored. Brian Boyle and Brandon Prust were effective again, this time joined by a lively Sean Avery. But the simple fact was that scoring chances were rare for the Rangers. The Caps have played sound defensive hockey in this series thus far, limiting turnovers and clearing their own zone very effectively. With Michal Neuvirth coming up big when he had to, such as when Marian Gaborik was stoned on a solid scoring chance with 9 minutes remaining in the third, the Caps just didn’t give an inch Friday night.
Man Advantage? The Caps did have the second best PK in the NHL this season, but the Rangers' power play is really scuffling. Coming up dry, again, Friday night the Blueshirts are now 1 for their last 31 chances against shorthanded opponents.
What’s Next: The Rangers head home with the series at 2-0 in the Caps’ favor entering Game 3. The action resumes Sunday at 3 p.m. The Rangers will need to find a way, any way, to put some points on the board. Their top offensive players have been pretty quiet, though Gaborik again created some good chances, but again couldn’t convert. Brandon Dubinsky couldn't seem to generate much during his time on the ice either. That has to change if the Rangers want to extend their season. While everyone will need to step up this weekend, the Rangers really need their best players to be their best players.