In Game 1 of the series, the Rangers' effort was acceptable despite the loss. I don't feel the same can be said of the effort in Game 2. By the night's end, the Rangers looked like a depleted team lacking confidence and once again, did not challenge Washington goaltender Michal Neuvirth as often as they should have. Now trailing in the series two games to none, the Rangers need a response Sunday afternoon at Madison Square Garden, otherwise this series will be over rather quickly.
The Blueshirts actually got off to a good start and played a strong first period tonight. They came out hitting, they found ways to maintain possession of the puck on the forecheck and were outshooting the Caps, 13-7, at the conclusion of the opening stanza. But, as usual, they came out of the period with no goals on the board.
Someone must have taken charge of the Washington locker room during the first intermission, because they took the ice as a different team in the second period. The Capitals began to take over the game slowly but surely by controlling in the offensive zone and also tightening up defensively. Their first goal came at 2:11 of the period on a great play set-up by Washington's third line. Brooks Laich fought off a Matt Gilroy check behind the net and then one-handed the puck to Marcus Johansson, who fed Jason Chimera perfectly in the slot for one-timer goal.
Shortly after, Ryan McDonagh was sent to the box for what I felt was one of the worst calls of this series so far. Ryan was simply clearing the crease by putting Boyd Gordon on his rear end, but the officials somehow saw that as roughing (???) and to the box went McDonagh. And, of course, the Caps would capitalize with the man advantage when the puck found Jason Arnott on a lucky bounce and he put it past a sprawled Henrik Lundqvist to make it 2-0.
From that point on, Washington did something they have not exactly been known for in the past. They defended their lead and defended it well. They pushed the Rangers' rush to the outside against the boards and limited their scoring chances. As a result of this, New York was held to just three shots in the second period and six in the third. Again, Neuvirth didn't have to work all that hard in order to get the shutout tonight.
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Marian Gaborik was disappointing in my opinion. He played so well in Game 1 and despite having four shots tonight, he wasn't as effective as he was earlier in the week. For most of the game he was invisible and when you did notice him, he was given no space by the Caps' defense and ended up turning the puck over. This was the case for most of the forwards tonight, so you cannot only put the blame on Gabby, but more is expected of him than the rest of the lineup, and he did not deliver on this night.
I thought Sean Avery, on the other hand, was great in his series debut. He had three shots on goal in 10:22 of ice time and worked very well with linemates Brian Boyle and Brandon Prust. This trio generated some great scoring chances in the third period, but again, they could not find the back of the net. I think head coach John Tortorella will be keeping them together for Game 2, though.
The Rangers need more than just one line going if they want to climb back into this series, though. They have just one goal in seven periods played in the series, and that one goal came from a defenseman. Neuvirth has been good, but he has not been forced to be great. The Rangers need to get to that kid in front of the home crowd on Sunday.
Speaking of Sunday, that's a series-deciding game for the Rangers. If they fall behind 3-0, there will be an extremely minute chance they are able to mount a comeback of that magnitude. 2-1 is a whole lot different compared to 3-0, so the Blueshirts must get the job done on Sunday at MSG if they want to keep hope alive here.
A lot of that will depend on the play of goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who was excellent once again in this tilt, making a total of 16 saves including a breakaway stop against Alex Ovechkin. If only he could get some goal support....
That's all I have to say about this stinker, but I'm sure you all have a lot more to add, so have at it in the comments.