The New York Rangers were unable to get the job done tonight against the Wasington Capitals in Game 4, and now face elimination Friday evening at Madison Square Garden. It was much of the same from Game 3 as the Rangers were able to generate plenty of chances, but were unable to get quality chances in behind the Capitals defense.
After watching this series, the Capitals remind me a lot of the 2012 Rangers in that they block every single shot, and collapse in the slot. As we've seen through four games, that results in tons of chances for the Rangers, but they are unable to get through that last line of defense. Not to mention, Braden Holtby was spectacular once again tonight, and is one of the big reasons why the Rangers have been staying off of the score sheet.
While there was certainly a fair share of chances traded early on this game, neither team was able to put one past the goaltenders in the first period. Coming out of the intermission, the Rangers started pushing the pace quite a bit, and they were eventually rewarded. Just 6:12 into the middle frame, Martin St. Louis found Derick Brassard cutting to the net and hit him with a beautiful pass right on the tape. As soon as Brassard retrieved the pass, he ripped a shot towards Holtby and tucked one right under the bar.
After going scoreless for four straight periods, the Rangers breaking through with the first goal was huge. Or, so we thought. Ten minutes later, Andre Burakovsky brought the game back to even after he fought off Chris Kreider along the boards, and powered his way the middle of the ice. He was able to delay just enough to throw Henrik Lundqvist off, and he ripped the puck over the blocker to make it a 1-1 game.
Aside from the tremendous move by Burakovsky, Chris Kreider can't loose that initial puck battle along the boards. Instead of moving his legs, Kreider waited to absorb the hit, and that allowed Burakovsky to slip right in to collect the loose puck. It was certainly not the way to close out the second period, and the Rangers continued to feel the after effects early on in the first period.
As if Burakovsky didn't do enough damage, he sent Capitals fans into a frenzy just 24 seconds into the third period with his second goal of the night. It all started with a botched keep in attempt by Carl Hagelin, followed by a lazy pass up the boards by Ryan McDonagh. The puck wound up going off of Troy Brouwer's stick and banked back up ice with Burakovsky in behind the Rangers defense.
He was able to break in all alone, fight off the oncoming McDonagh, and tapped the puck over Lundqvist on the backhand to give the Caps a 2-1 lead. The Rangers appeared to be a bit stunned following the goal, and never really got back on the attack until it was too late. With the goalie pulled in the final minute, the Rangers were completely disorganized and had little to no possession in the offensive zone.
With the loss, as previously mentioned, the Rangers will look to fight off elimination Friday evening as they head back to Madison Square Garden. The Rangers have clearly been the better team over the last two games, but they still can't find a way to get the bounces. Sometimes you need a little luck on your side, and the Rangers aren't getting any of it. We'll see how next game treats them.