The New York Rangers came out on a mission this afternoon, and as a result, they evened up the best-of-seven series with a 3-2 win over the Washington Capitals in Game 2. Just like Thursday, the Rangers had plenty of scoring opportunities all afternoon, and this time around they took advantage on a few different occasions. Braden Holtby continued to be a dominant force, and if not for him, this game probably gets out of hand before the Capitals fight their way back.
On the other end, Henrik Lundqvist was equally as good and had easily the best save of the game against Evgeny Kuznetsov early in the second period. After Thursday's disappointing loss, the Rangers made a point of coming out of the gates with early pressure, and they were rewarded just 38 seconds into the game. Right off of the opening faceoff, the Rangers regrouped in their own end before Kevin Klein sent a stretch pass up to Derek Stepan. Stepan was able to track the puck down after he tipped it in the zone, and curled up to the left side of the net.
After help finally came down ice, Stepan ripped a hard pass across to Jesper Fast who tapped the puck off of Holty's right pad. Chris Kreider was following up the play, and slammed home the rebound after Holtby was unable to control the puck. The Rangers were not only able to grab the early lead, but they also got the early momentum and fed off of it for the remainder of the period.
That eventually lead to a late period tripping penalty on Joel Ward, which gave the Rangers a huge opportunity to double up their lead. Sure enough, a little over a minute into the power play, Dan Boyle chipped one by Holtby on a weak slap shot from the point. Rick Nash did an excellent job in front of the net to take away Holtby's vision, and the Rangers grabbed a huge 2-0 lead heading into the first intermission.
The Capitals weren't nearly good enough during the first period, which meant there was going to be some sort of push back coming in the second period. As expected, the Capitals pushed the pace quite a bit in the early going, and at the 13:59 mark, they pulled within a goal. After being denied a few minutes earlier by Lundqvist, Evgeny Kuznetsov finally got the Capitals on the board with his fourth goal of the playoffs.
Both Dan Boyle and Keith Yandle were caught flatfooted on the offensive zone faceoff, which allowed Kuznetsov and Jason Chimera to quick break up the ice. Chimera was able to chase down the loose puck the banked off the end boards, and tipped a light shot towards Lundqvist. Unfortunately, Lundqvist kicked the rebound right into the slot, and Kuznetsov just barely got enough of the rebound to tap it by the goaltender.
Things started looking grim early on in the third period as well, as Derick Brassard was whistled down for interfernce at the 3:57 mark. However, the Rangers didn't an excellent job of killing the penalty, and Brassard wound up capitalizing a few seconds after exiting the penalty box. Rick Nash started it all off with a huge defensive play, and quickly moved the puck up to Martin St. Louis. After the entering the zone, St. Louis bobbled the puck but found a way to shovel the puck down to Brassard, who was wide open in front.
Brassard wasted no time, ripped a hard shot through the legs of Holtby, and the puck just trickled over the goal line to give the Rangers a 3-1 lead. While it looked as if the Rangers were in a good spot, Alex Ovechkin ruined that excitement heading into the second half of the period. Ovechkin was able to lug the puck up the ice by himself, and split by Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi as he entered the zone. Both Girardi and McDonagh knocked Ovechkin down to his knees, but he wasn't being stopped and smoked one by Lundqvist while falling forward.
It was an unreal goal by one of the best goal scorers in the league, and honestly, I'm not really sure there was anything that could have been done to stop him. That set up a drama filled final few minutes, but the Rangers were able to close it out after one final defensive zone draw. The league's best road team will now have an opportunity to take control of this series as they head into Washington for Game's 3 and 4.