WASHINGTON – After losing game one in overtime, the New York Rangers came out in game two and threw everything they had at the Washington Capitals and goaltender Michal Neuvirth. Dominating in shots, and scoring chances and zone time, the Rangers looked to be on the verge of taking a lead in the first period.
But every time they came down the ice, Neuvirth and the Caps defense shut the door. And by the time the second period came along, the Caps fought back, getting goals from Jason Chimera and Jason Arnott before tightening up defensively and holding on to the lead.
“They had shots early in the game,” Neuvirth (22 saves) said. “After the first period, I think they had like 13 shots. I feel pretty good about my game right now. After, I think we didn’t give up any big scoring chances, I think it was a solid team effort tonight.”
Neuvirth and the entire Washington defense kept the Rangers off the board in the third period, when New York dominated in puck possession and had scoring chance after scoring chance.
“I think we were a little lackadaisical in the third,” Capitals center Jason Arnott said. “We were panicking a little bit. That’s normal with young guys but we have to do a better job if we’re getting the lead going into the third. We have to keep forechecking, keep shooting pucks. They took it to us in the third.”
Chimera’s goal ignited Verizon Center and gave the Capitals much-needed momentum after a New York-dominated first period. The line was key in game one and had another strong game, giving the Rangers defense all they could handle.
“We said before that we thought we had a good line and we could make a difference,” Chimera said. “You look at all the playoff series in the past and you always see third and fourth lines stepping up so it’s nice to do that.”
2 minutes after Chimera’s goal, a re-directed puck found Arnott’s blade and the veteran center fired it into a wide open net. The quick goals turned the tide of the game, and even though the Rangers carried play in the 2 other periods, they just couldn’t find the back of the net.
“It’s a valuable lesson,” Rangers coach John Tortorella said. “We had some turnovers. It caused the momentum change right away in the second period. For about five or six minutes there, they surged on us. They scored a goal, we take a penalty, get an unfortunate bounce and that’s a big part of the game.”
Added Lundqvist: “It’s a tough game when you get behind – especially the way they’re playing right now. They’re very tight in their own end. It’s tough for us to get the big chances. We have to keep going. We’re going home now. A lot can change. It starts with one win. That’s going to be our focus.”
The Rangers have scored a total of 1 goal in the two games so far, and as the series heads to Madison Square Garden, New York has to find a way to beat Neuvirth and the stingy Capitals defense. Still, the Rangers felt they played a good game and can keep playing their game; they just need to find a way to pot a goal.
“I thought we played much better than the other night,” Tortorella said. “I thought it was much more the style that we play. We got hurt by a surge tonight. Good teams do it. We’ll try to get one ourselves as we go to our building.”
And though Washington is now up 2-0 and in control of the series, last year’s collapse still looms over the Capitals, and they know they can’t take their foot off the pedal.
“It goes back to the games we play in the regular season,” Arnott said. “We’ve been in the position a lot this year… It’s been comforting to know that we’ve played enough games to know what to do now.”