The New York Rangers dropped Game 1 of the Metropolitan Division Finals tonight by a score of 2-1, and the Washington Capitals grabbed the early 1-0 lead in this series. While the result obviously wasn't in their favor, the Rangers were actually the better team tonight, but couldn't capitalize on their early opportunities. A large part of that had to do with the stellar play of Braden Holtby, who shut the Rangers down on numerous chance in front of the crease.
Henrik Lundqvist wasn't tested a whole lot early on in the game, but he certainly kept this one close as the game carried on. Although, he was burned quite a bit late in the first period after Alex Ovechkin ripped a bullet over his shoulder, and gave the Capitals the 1-0 lead. The goal wound up coming on the power play, and Ovechkin was able to exploit Dan Boyle down the left side of the ice.
Boyle gave Ovechkin way too much time to walk his way into the zone, and just as he was stepping up, Ovechkin used him as a screen to smoke one by Lundqvist. Late period goals are never easy to rebound from, and sure enough, it took the Rangers over a period and a half just to get that goal back.
With a disappointing end to the first period, the Rangers needed to rebound with a big second period. While they weren't able to find the tying goal, the Rangers certainly had their opportunities to but just couldn't catch the right bounce. The Capitals did an excellent job of getting in the shooting lanes and limiting the Rangers high quality chances in front of the net.
After going scoreless throughout 40 minutes, the Rangers finally got their bounce with about five minutes remaining in regulation. Kevin Hayes started it off with a strong power move behind the net, and chipped it back down to Dan Boyle. There was a bit of confusion in the high slot which allowed Hayes to gain control of the puck, and he whipped a quick shot through a ton of traffic in front. The puck wound up ticking off of Jesper Fast's right skate and in behind Holtby to knot this game up at 1-1.
It was a huge goal in terms of shifting the momentum back late in the game, and to finally break through after numerous failed opportunities earlier on in the game. However, the Capitals had other ideas and kept pressing the Rangers following the tying goal.
With under 10 seconds remaining Dan Boyle made the smart play of pinning the puck against the boards to kill off the remaining time on the clock. Nicklas Backstrom came flying in shortly after and absolutely demolished Boyle from behind, sending him flying face first into the glass. The hit was a textbook boarding call, even in the playoffs, and of course, it led to the Capitals scoring the late game-winner. In case you didn't catch it, you can view the hit again in GIF form.
While the hit itself was obviously very bad, there's really no excuse for the Rangers stopping in their tracks and leaving Joel Ward all by himself in front of the net. There were three Rangers shadowing Ovechkin behind the net, and not one of them decided to watch the front. As a result, Ovechkin made an easy tap pass back out to Ward, and he shoveled it under Lundqvist's pad with two seconds remaining.
It was an extremely disappointing way to end, especially after the Rangers were able to get back into the game a few minutes prior. Either way, what's done is done and the Rangers now find themselves down 1-0 with Game 2 coming up on Saturday afternoon. Win that game, and we erase all of the bad that occurred tonight.