Done In By Discipline – Washington passed up a chance to take a 3-0 chokehold on its Eastern Conference Quarterfinal Series with the New York Rangers on Monday night. After taking an early lead in Game 3 of the best-of-seven set between the two teams, the Caps ran their collective fuel tank down by taking five successive minor penalties in the first half of the contest. Washington spent the rest of the night trying to regain the lead, pulling even twice but ultimately falling 4-3.
“We took too many [penalties] early,” says Caps coach Adam Oates. “We got out of our rhythm and guys use up minutes that we don’t want to do for energy that maybe later on in the third period cost us.”
The Caps now lead the series 2-1 with Game 4 to be played Wednesday at Madison Square Garden.
Washington went down a man early when Caps captain Alex Ovechkin was sent off for roughing just 63 seconds after the opening puck drop. The Caps killed the penalty without incident and jumped out in front soon thereafter with some strong offensive zone play.
Nicklas Backstrom was on the ice with Troy Brouwer and Martin Erat after the kill, and the trio worked the puck along the boards and behind the net in the New York end. Backstrom fought off defenders and moved the puck up the wall on the left side, leaving it for John Erskine at the left point. Erskine made a D-to-D pass to partner John Carlson, who let a shot fly. With his stick just above waist-high, Backstrom deftly deflected it past Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist to put Washington up 1-0 at 4:06.
A mere 80 seconds after Backstrom’s goal, the Caps had a chance to go up by a pair when Rangers captain Ryan Callahan was sent off for roughing. But Washington was unable to generate even a shot on goal and couldn’t pad its lead.
Washington’s penalty box parade began in earnest just past the midpoint of the first frame. Caps winger Joel Ward incurred a hi-sticking minor on New York pivot Derick Brassard midway through the first. Just as time expired on that call, Rangers center Brian Boyle beat Caps goalie Braden Holtby from down low on the right side to even the score at 1-1.
The Caps killed off a bench minor for too many men on the ice late in the first and managed to get to the first intermission all even at 1-1.
Washington’s penalty woes continued early in the second. Holtby incurred a tripping violation at 1:15 when he hauled down Rangers winger Rick Nash. New York won the ensuing face-off and needed just eight seconds to feed Brassard in the slot for a wrist shot and a power play goal that gave the Rangers their first lead since the second period of Game 1.
Jay Beagle went off for hooking at 2:57 of the second and Steve Oleksy for elbowing at 6:32. That made for five successive minor penalties in a span of just 15:42. While the Caps’ penalty-killing outfit did a good job to limit the Rangers to one goal on New York’s six extra-man opportunities, the nearly constant killing also taxed Washington’s energy. The Caps were scuffling and teetering near the midpoint of the second, but the Rangers weren’t able to extend their lead.
“For me, mine was a lazy one,” rues Beagle of his penalty. “I can’t speak for anyone else’s. Obviously we can’t be in the box that much; it hurts us. Five-on-five we were rolling; we were playing real well five-on-five and it kills the momentum when we’ve got to kill that many penalties and it hurt us.”
By the second half of the middle frame, the Caps had settled down and were back to business doing what they’ve done best in this series, wearing down the Rangers in the New York end of the ice. Successive forechecking shifts from the Beagle line and then the Mathieu Perreault line paid off late in the middle frame.
Eric Fehr and Jason Chimera did some strong wall work to get the puck to Perreault, who fed Green at the right point. Green cruised in a few feet before releasing a wrist shot that beat Lundqvist high to the glove side with 2:41 left in the second period.
New York regained the lead early in the third on a great play from behind the Washington net. Brassard passed the puck in front to Arron Asham, on the ice for a rare shift. Asham had the time and space needed to wrist a shot past Holtby to make it a 3-2 game at 2:53 of the third.
Once again, Washington answered back. Matt Hendricks won an offensive zone draw, and Ward helped the puck back to Jack Hillen at the left point. Hillen let a shot go, and Beagle deflected it past Lundqvist to make it a 3-3 game with 12:41 remaining in regulation.
New York netted the decisive goal with 6:25 left in the third. Rick Nash let a shot fly from down low on the right side, and Rangers center Derek Stepan made a drive-by deflection, tipping the puck high into the far side of the net as he cruised past Holtby and the goal line.
New York’s first goal was officially an even-strength goal, but for all intents and purposes it was a power play tally. The Rangers’ second goal was a legitimate power play strike. The Blueshirts’ two third-period goals hurt because Washington was uncharacteristically loose in its own end of the ice.
“I don’t think we were tight in the third,” says Oates. “I think maybe the penalties cause that because we were a little tired and we got spread out a little bit.”
Washington had a chance for a late equalizer when New York’s Brad Richards went off for slashing at 18:06. The Caps pulled Holtby for an extra attacker to create a 6-on-4 situation, but the Rangers tightened up in front of Lundqvist and Washington’s passing didn’t produce much in the way of looks at the net that were deemed good enough to pull the trigger. The Caps missed the net once, and then had a pair of late and desperate bids blocked.
“They did a really good job of protecting [Lundqvist],” says Oates, of the game’s final sequence. “We probably could have figured out a better way to get to the net just to start the process of now they’ve got to recover and there are rebounds and a second wave. We probably got a little too cute with it.”
“They played well,” says Ovechkin of the Rangers. “We tried to find the shooting lane and we didn’t find it. Blame it on us. The situation was we took too many penalties, they scored two power play goals and it cost us the game.”
The Caps will take Tuesday to regroup before getting back to work on Wednesday in Game 4.
“Their first two goals were kind of on the power play so that gave them a lot of life,” says Oates. “In chances five-on five I still think we outchanced them. But we’ll look at it and see if there are any obvious areas where we broke down too much.”
Streak Stopped – Boyle’s goal ended Holtby’s shutout spell over the Rangers at 124:06. Boyle’s goal was just the second for the Rangers in the series and the first since Carl Hagelin’s tally at 16:44 of the first period of Game 1.
O From The D – All three Washington goals were generated from point shots, two of them coming off deflections. Defensemen have had a hand in six of the seven Capitals goals in this series.
Tighten Up – Monday’s game marks the eighth time in the last 10 postseason games between the Capitals and the Rangers that the contest was decided by a single goal. Fifteen of the 22 playoff games between Washington and New York since 2009 have been one-goal games.
Powerless – Washington had three power plays in the game to six for the Rangers, and the Caps were limited to just one shot on goal in the 5:54 in which they held the man advantage.
New York outshot the Capitals by a 12-1 margin in special teams play and 11-1 on the power play. The Caps held a 30-18 advantage in shots on goal in five-on-five play.
Six Pack – The Caps’ total of six penalty killing missions is the most they’ve been tasked with since giving the Islanders six power play chances in a 5-3 loss to the Islanders on March 9.
“It’s tough,” says Oleksy. “The PK was great, but it wears your guys down. You get some of your top players out there on the PK as well, but when you’re killing that many penalties it’s tough. It’s tough to battle back the rest of the game.”
During the regular season, the Capitals were 3-7-2 in games in which they faced five or more penalty-killing situations. Washington was 24-11-1 in games when it faced four or fewer shorthanded situations in 2012-13.
Four Score – Monday’s game marks the first time in New York’s last 22 Stanley Cup playoff games that the Rangers have scored as many as four goals in a game. Prior to Game 3, the last time the Blueshirts managed as many as four markers in a playoff game was April 12, 2012 when they forged a 4-2 win over the Ottawa Senators in Game 1 of the opening round playoff series between the two teams.
Monday marks just the third time in 17 career Stanley Cup playoff games that Holtby has been victimized for more than three goals against and just the second time that he has allowed more than three goals in a non-overtime playoff game.
Blueline Boost – New York’s defense got a boost for Game 3 when Marc Staal came back into the Rangers’ lineup for the first time since suffering an eye injury in a March 5 game against the Flyers at Madison Square Garden.
Staal skated 17:17 on the night, including 1:57 while New York was shorthanded. He was a minus-1 in the game.
You Again – New York scored a combined total of eight goals in its three regular season games against Washington, getting those goals from six different players. Three of those six players scored on Monday.
Boyle and Asham each had only two goals during the regular season, with one of each player’s total coming at Washington’s expense. Boyle has scored six of his 46 career regular season goals against the Caps, his highest total against any foe.
Stepan scored a goal in each of the three regular season tilts between the Caps and Rangers, getting three of his 18 goals on the season against Washington. He netted the game-winner in Game 3.
By The Numbers – Washington was 25-2-1 during the regular season in games in which it scored three or more goals … The Caps are now 0-7 in Game 3 of the seven playoff series in which they've jumped out to a 2-0 lead ... Green led the Caps with 24:32 in ice time … Carlson led the Capitals with 5:38 in shorthanded ice time … Ovechkin fired 11 shots but got only two on net. Five were blocked and four missed … Troy Brouwer led the Caps with four hits … Hillen and Erskine had three blocked shots each to lead Washington … Caps centers Backstrom, Mike Ribeiro, Perreault and Beagle combined to win 29 of 45 draws (64.4%) but the team’s wingers won just one of 11 (9.1%). That one win from Hendricks led directly to the third Washington goal … Nash led the Rangers with seven shot attempts and four shots on net … Callahan led the Rangers with six hits … Dan Girardi paced the Blueshirts with five blocked shots … Boyle won 14 of 21 draws (67%).