The Rangers knew heading into this series that stopping Alex Ovechkin just wasn't going to happen. Shutting down an All-World player is a tall order for any defense. The best the they could hope for would be to weather the storm, rely on their goaltender to weather the storm, and somehow persevere. The Rangers know they have a big advantage between the pipes, and intended to do everything in their power to exploit it.
For Game One, mission accomplished.
Despite Ovechkin having a whopping 26 minutes of ice time (it seemed like 56 minutes) and 13 shots on goal, the Rangers survived the onslaught the Capitals threw at them, and walked out of the Verizon Center with a 4-3 victory, and a 1-0 series lead.
After a sluggish first period that saw the Rangers outshot 14-4, they found their game in the 2nd period. One minute and nine seconds after Tomas Fleischmann gave the Caps a 1-0 lead, Scott Gomez tied the game with a shot that beat Caps goaltender Jose Theodore just below his blocker.
The game remained tied at 1 for almost 10 minutes, then the Rangers power play took over. Yes, you read that right, the Rangers power play took over. With John Erskine in the box for hi-sticking, Nik Antropov put a rocket over Theodore's shoulder to give the Rangers a 2-1 lead. Immediately following the goal, Sergei Fedorov took a delay of game penalty, and the Rangers red hot deadly power play took advantage, with Markus Naslund putting the Rangers up 3-1 with less than 2 minutes left in the second period, silencing the home crowd.
But less than a minute later, Victor Kozlov cut the lead in half after beating Marc Staal to the puck. Almost predictably, the Rangers then opened the third period by taking a penalty, and then Alexander Semin was able to tie the game with the Caps 2nd power play goal of the game. The crowd was alive, and the Rangers seemed to be back on their heels again.
Thanks to Henrik Lundqvist, who made 32 saves, the Rangers were able to hang on, and with 8:17 remaining, Brandon Dubinsky put the Rangers ahead for good with a shot from the left circle after a nifty move around Caps defenseman Jeff Schultz.
The Rangers had to play the game without Captain Chris Drury, who has been day-to-day with an undisclosed injury. Drury came out for the pregame skate, but after a few minutes on the ice, he returned to the locker room and was scratched. Aaron Voros took his place in the lineup. Drury's status for Game 2 on Saturday is unknown.
After the game, John Tortorella sounded like a coach whose club stole a win.
"I thought we were a nervous club, but that we rebounded well in the second period," he said. "We found a way to get our legs underneath us. We had big plays at big times. We were fortunate to get a win."
Check back soon for thoughts on Game 1 from The Manic Ranger and Ranger Reporter.