November 26, 2014

First Take Game 3: Rangers hold on late to hold serve in Game 3

They say a series hasn’t really started until a home team loses. Well, we still don’t have a series. The New York Rangers edged the Washington Capitals, 4-3, to win Game 3 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.

Some thoughts:

– Alex Ovechkin was whistled for a roughing penalty less than two minutes into the game. Ryan Callahan took one a couple of minutes later. Both calls were weak, most likely the result of officials trying to manage the contact in the game after the fiasco that the Montreal-Ottawa game the other night turned out to be. Neither team was successful on the resulting power plays.

– Steve Oleksy had a great stick lift on Callahan on one of the Rangers three power plays in the first period, most likely preventing a goal. He’s really surprised many with his play this season, joining the team as an unheralded journeyman but developing into a trusted blueliner for Adam Oates, Calle Johansson and the Caps.

– Backstrom’s tip for the Caps first period goal was a tremendous feat of hand-eye coordination, and a good job by John Carlson for getting the puck headed toward the net on a broken play.

– Braden Holtby lost the post on Brian Boyle’s short-side tally for the Rangers, but Mike Green didn’t do Holtby any favors on how he tried to play defense on the play. Green kind of squatted in Boyle’s passing lane, but wasn’t in any position to react when Boyle went hard to the post. It left Holtby trying to play the shot and the pass. His defender has to take away one of those options for the puck-carrier.

– The Rangers had the better of play early in the second, thanks to three straight Caps penalties, and their power play goal by Brassard was a result of it. But the Caps withstood most of the Rangers good play, then once they got back to even strength got the better of the Rangers, using good old-fashioned board work. Eric Fehr and Jason Chimera winning the puck along the boards out to Mathieu Perreault, who found a streaking Green for his second goal in as many games.

– Twice in the third period the Rangers took advantage of the Caps not being able to get out of their own end. Two extended periods of puck control and the Caps defense was eventually going to break down. It did.

– In that last power play as time expired, the Caps could not manage a shot on goal in 1:54 — playing 6-on-4.

– Though they got the last man-advantage, the Caps took six minor penalties. That’s way too many, plain and simple, regardless of the dubious nature of a couple of them. Caps outshot Rangers 30-18 at even strength, so they pretty much owned play at even strength. You can be sure Adam Oates will emphasize that point the next couple of days.

– Henrik Lundqvist, despite giving up three goals, led the Rangers in this win. He made several remarkable saves when the Caps were buzzing.

Game Four is Wednesday at 7:30 pm from Madison Square Garden.

About Dave Nichols

Dave Nichols is Editor-in-Chief of District Sports Page. He is credentialed to cover the Washington Nationals, Capitals, Wizards and Mystics. Dave also covers national college football and basketball and Major League Soccer for Associated Press. He spent four years in radio covering the Baltimore Orioles, Washington Redskins and the University of Maryland football and basketball teams. Dave is a life-long D.C. sports fan and attended his first pro game in 1974 — the Caps’ second game in existence. You can follow him on Twitter @DaveNicholsDSP

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