After a strong effort but a defeat at the hands of the New York Rangers Monday night, the Capitals played their weakest game of the series so far, and after spotting the Rangers the lead. Despite a late finish, Washington couldn’t quite recover and saw their 2-0 lead in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals evaporate in two games at Madison Square Garden.
Mental lapses dogged the Capitals again on Wednesday, as Braden Holtby’s ill-advised turnover, Jason Chimera’s needless penalty after Washington fought back to tie it and other defensive breakdowns were costly, as New York controlled most of the first 50 minutes and then the Capitals couldn’t pull even with a late kick.
Washington now faces a best-of-three series – with three games in four days – to advance to the next round of the postseason. If they don’t, they likely will remember the squandered lead they lost early this week in Manhattan.
The Rangers got on the board first last in the third period when a bad Holtby clear through the middle of the ice was intercepted by Taylor Pyatt. Hagelin picked up the loose puck and fired, but John Carlson blocked the shot attempt, but Holtby slid through the crease and past the net, allowing Brad Richards to deposit the puck in the empty net with 3:35 left in the first.
Just 2:01 after the Richards tally, Washington got a power play on a Michael Del Zotto penalty, but at the tail end of the advantage, a collision of Alex Ovechkin, Martin Erat and Ryan Callahan resulted in a pair of Washington penalties and a 5-on-3 to end the first period for New York.
Erat left the game after he lost his glove and slid into the cage, and the Caps had more penalty problems after Monday’s early issues.
However, the Capitals were able to kill off the remainder of the two-man advantage at the start of the second, but New York carried the momentum generated by the advantage, outshooting Washington 18-7 five minutes into the frame.
New York took advantage of that surge as Carl Hagelin blasted a pass in the top corner to give the Rangers their first two-goal lead of the series with 10:13 gone in the second.
Although Washington remained flat for most of the frame, Joel Ward gave the Capitals some life late in the second. Ward made a nifty move down the side towards the cage, deking around a sliding Michael Del Zotto and the corner of the net, then fed Matthieu Perreault who was parked at the side of the net for the Capitals’ first goal with 6:52 left in the period.
Washington then got the equalizer in the final seconds of the second thanks to Troy Brouwer, as he broke in with the puck into the Rangers zone and backhanded a shot past Lundqvist with just :18 left in the second period.
Despite being outplayed for most of the contest, the Capitals headed into the second intermission tied 2-2 even though they were outshot 26-15 through 40 minutes. However, a Chimera penalty at the end of the second proved costly early in the third.
With the power play to start the third and looking to turn the tide, New York did, as Dan Girardi used the man advantage to blast a puck past Holtby just 59 seconds into the third.
The momentum generated by the early goal carried over into the frame, as the Capitals were caught scrambling around in their own end and Derek Stepan was left alone by the net and put the puck past Holtby for a 4-2 lead.
Karl Alzner pulled the Capitals to within one just 1:29 later, putting a fluttering shot that deflected off Perreault past Lundqvist to make it 4-3.
However, despite some late pressure, the Capitals couldn’t overcome their early mistakes and now are tied 2-2, with Game 5 Friday at Verizon Center.