Recap: Rangers Head to D.C. With 2-0 Series Lead

Nothing says Rangers playoff hockey like a stressful finish. Despite a rough start, the Rangers bounced back and found success with special teams to establish an important third period lead. Things got chippy at times and as the Capitals brought themselves within one in the final period, it was far from a walk in the park but the Rangers stayed strong and took care of business to pick up their second win. Let's break it all down.

1st Period:

Understandably, the Capitals had much more of a jump in their game out the gate coming off the Game 1 loss. In addition to that, the Rangers didn’t do themselves any favors with a couple of neutral zone turnovers and an overall shaky start. Through the first five minutes of the period, the Capitals were out-shooting the Rangers and getting far greater chances off the rush than they had in all of Game 1. Their efforts paid off as just over five minutes in, Connor McMichael found the back of the net. A defensive zone lapse allowed for T.J. Oshie to walk right through the slot but as the Rangers poked it away, McMichael was right there to send the puck past Igor Shesterkin to make it a 1-0 game early. 

A far from ideal start but thankfully, the Rangers took it as the wake up call it was. Just three minutes later, an iced puck from Washington creates an offensive zone faceoff for Vincent Trocheck to win back to former Capital, Erik Gustafsson. On its way to the net, the shot deflected off the stick of Trocheck to sneak past Charlie Lindgren, tying things up 1-1. 

As far as penalties were concerned, it was a polar opposite start in Game 2 as there were certainly some things that could’ve been called but weren’t through the first half of the period. The first call of the game came right after the midway point of the first as Jacob Trouba was sent off for interfering with Tom Wilson. The man advantage for Washington would feel more so an advantage for the Rangers as the Blueshirts generated a ton of scoring chances while short handed. 

It was mainly Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider getting the looks on the penalty kill but the first big chance came from Barclay Goodrow who found himself on a breakaway after making a good play at the Capitals point. Which would have been great had he not decided to leave a drop pass for absolutely no one. Not sure if one of the Capitals players fooled him into thinking he had someone there or if he was just really confident in Trocheck or someone trailing him but regardless, that’s not a decision you want to see one of your go-to veteran guys making in a playoff game. 

It wasn’t long after the strong kill from the Rangers before they got their first call of the night. Nicholas Aube-Kubel was sent off for hooking Trocheck in the corner of the Capitals zone. With five and a half to go after a mainly underwhelming power play, Zibanejad let a shot go that took a fortunate bounce off the glove of Alexander Alexeyev to deflect past Lindgren to give the Rangers their first lead of the night, 2-1. 

A minute and a half later, Oshie was called for holding but the second Rangers power play was put to an abrupt end as Kreider was called for cross-checking. After a long back and forth battle with Trevor van Riemsdyk in front of the Capitals net, Wes McCauley decided that was enough and sent Kreider off. You could certainly say that this was the start of the officials losing grip on their control of the game. 

Nevertheless, the Rangers battled back from a tough start to come out of the opening period with a 2-1 lead. In addition to having the lead on the scoreboard, the Rangers lead in practically every area of the ice. They won 58% of the face-offs, led in shot attempts, hits, high danger chances and expected goals for as they seemingly regained control of the game overall. 

2nd Period:

The soft calls made a comeback in the second as Matt Rempe was sent off for roughing just four minutes into the period. A bit of an exaggerated reaction from Lucas Johansen in his postseason debut but nevertheless, the Rangers were again shorthanded. This time around, it would cost them as the Rangers were scrambling to settle into their formation and Wilson was able to find Dylan Strome going hard to the net to put one past Shesterkin, tying the game back up 2-2. 

Soon after the team’s returned to even strength, Martin Fehervary was called for taking down Alexis Lafrenière which sent the Rangers to a power play. While they wouldn’t find a way to convert, it wouldn’t be long before they got a second chance at it as John Carlsson was sent off for a similar penalty that Kreider took at the end of the first. This was after a grade A, “jack-in-the-box” chance for Fehervary as he found the puck for a breakaway returning to play at the end of his penalty. 

Fourth power play chance for the Rangers and while the top unit wouldn’t get it done, the second unit would come up clutch. Erik Gustafsson would pick up his second primary assist of the night as he found Jack Roslovic on the right side who let an absolute snipe of a shot soar over the shoulder of Lindgren to regain the Rangers lead, 3-2. 

As mentioned earlier, the officials were starting to let things get away from them and it would continue as Tom Wilson started jousting with Will Cuylle at the face-off circle. The officials briefly intervened which wouldn’t do much as the two still went at it and a Wilson elbow to Cuylle’s face seemed to conveniently fall by the wayside. As play continued, there would be a more obvious missed call as Artemiy Panarin took a T.J. Oshie stick to the face, which somehow none of the officials were able to catch. 

With close to four minutes to go in the second, Erik Gustafsson was sent off for firing the puck over the glass to give Washington their fourth power play of the game. This would become another one that worked in the favor of the Rangers as K’Andre Miller picked up a short handed goal to extend the Rangers lead, 4-2. While Miller read the play beautifully to put himself in a position to get that shot off, the play starts with a great takeaway by Zibanejad on Alexander Ovechkin. On top of that, some great passing between him and Kreider gave Miller the time and space to join the play. Incredible stuff from that trio. 

The Rangers would take that 4-2 lead to the final intermission as they continued to out play Washington. Shots after two were 20-17 in favor of New York with them continuing to have a significant lead in face-offs but everything else was getting to be much closer. The Rangers needed one more push to put this one to bed. 

3rd Period:

After the longest stretch of the game without a whistle, things escalated quickly. Panarin laid a massive, albeit uncharacteristic hit on T.J. Oshie that would not only draw a crowd but would send the Caps veteran to their locker room. As Oshie laid on the ice, chaos ensued as several Capitals players went after Panarin which tied up all the Rangers forwards. This left Ryan Lindgren to defend the play the officials allowed to continue before having to take on two Washington players beside Igor Shesterkin. 

The officials opted to review the hit for a potential major penalty as some believed there may have been some head contact involved. 

Upon review, the official’s would get it right in declaring the hit clean to the point where it wouldn’t even be a minor penalty. Given all the extracurriculars, the Rangers would actually end up with a power play as Connor McMichael was given a roughing penalty for going after Panarin following the hit. This was the perfect chance for the Rangers to put it away and would continue to have that chance as Nic Dowd took a roughing penalty less than a minute after time on the McMichael penalty expired. 

For the second time tonight, the Rangers man advantage would come to an early end as they were caught with too-many men on the ice. Yet another penalty that would come to bite them in the rear as Tom Wilson would deflect a shot from Hendrix Lapierre through Shesterkin go to bring the Capitals within one with close to half the period still to be played. 

Oshie would eventually return for the Capitals but the final stretch of this game would absolutely drag as it was impossible to feel safe with just the one goal lead. The Capitals made a push to get this game tied up again but the Rangers fought through and held them off. With just under three minutes to go, Washington pulled Lindgren for the extra attacker and Barclay Goodrow nearly put an immediate end to that threat but missed just wide to ice it. This led to several minutes of uncomfortable hockey where the Rangers eventually struggled to get the puck out of their own zone. 

Alas, they pulled it off and held on strong to the 4-3 lead to give them a 2-0 lead on the series. Exactly where we wanted and expected this team to be at this point in the series and you have to think they feel a similar way. Special teams played a bigger role in this one as the Rangers picked up a pair of power play goals as well as a shorthanded one. Not to mention that two games in, with eight goals to show for, the Rangers are getting contributions up and down their lineup, in all types of situations with strong goaltending from Igor Shesterkin. The key now is to keep this up in enemy territory. 

Given the travel (which sounds silly considering NYC to D.C. is nothing compared to some of the travel going on in the Western Conference) the team’s will have an extra day off in between games as they’ll face-off in Washington D.C. for Game 3 on Friday Night.