November 22, 2014

FIRST TAKE, GAME 7: Rangers snuff out Caps offense and dismiss them from playoffs

The Washington Capitals fell to 3-9 all time in Game 7s, 2-7 at home, as the New York Rangers withstood a great first period by the Caps, then took a stranglehold on the game, scoring twice in the second and twice in the third to beat the Caps 5-0. Once the power play expired at the start of the second period, you could see the Caps completely deflate and the Rangers jumped allover them, using their lesser talented players to outwork — and eventually outscore — the Caps.

It was, quite obviously, the second year in a row the Rangers dismissed the Caps from the Stanley Cup Playoffs in a Game 7.

– The Caps dominated the first period everywhere but the scoreboard, holding a 32-16 advantage in shot attempts. Only 13 of the 32 attempts made their way on goal though, as the Caps had 13 attempts blocked and another six misfires.

– Ovechkin made his presence felt physically, if not on the scoresheet, with seven hits in the first, including several dramatic open-ice hits. He also pinned Ryan McDonough along the boards with a devastating hit, causing blood to leak from McDonough’s right cheek and forehead. The defenseman had to go to the locker room to get repairs but returned to the ice.

– 19-year old rookie Tom Wilson had a strong period, getting into good position for two shot attempts.

– The goal by the Rangers’ Aaron Asham came as a result of Mike Green getting caught in the Rangers’ end after a rush, but it’s a shot Braden Holtby should have had. You can’t let Asham beat you on a snap shot from the top of the circle, but Holtby whiffed with his glove hand, which made it a 1-0 game after 20 minutes.

– The second period was an unmitigated disaster for the Caps. As soon as the power play that carried over from the first expired, you could see the wind escape from the sails. Both New York goals came as a result of the Caps simply not being able to control the puck in their defensive end, wilting to the relentless forecheck of the Rangers’ lesser-known players. The second goal, Eminger to Dorsett to Pyatt, might be the least offensively gifted goal in a Game 7 in NHL history. There’s no excuse.

– Ribeiro, Fehr and Brouwer was the forward line on the ice for both New York goals in the second period.

– If you give up goals to Aaron Asham (2 goals in 27 games), Taylor Pyatt (6 goals in 48 games) and Mike Del Zotto (3 goals in 46 games), you kind of deserve to lose.

– I’m shocked Holtby didn’t get lifted after the third goal. Oates had every right. His team needed a jump, Holtby wasn’t tracking the puck well, and a 3-0 hole in Game 7 is a dramatic enough excuse. But Oates stuck with Holtby, reinforcing Holtby’s unquestioned status as the No. 1 goalie in town — for better or worse.

– I don’t even know how to describe the New York goal 13 seconds into the fourth period. Erskine way too nonchalant with a soft pass up the boards. No speed to get back. Holtby might as well not even had a stick as he was flailing it about purposeless, allowing a soft backhand to beat him with what was a three-goal deficit. Pathetic.

– To show the big difference between these two teams, the Caps played most of the third period at half-speed, just trying to get the game to end, while the Rangers were still using their bodies to block shots on the Caps’ late power play. It’s in their DNA — both ways.

We’ll have a season recap soon. But for now, hang in there Caps fans. They did some good things this season. Adam Oates looks like a keeper. And Ovi rediscovered who he was. The change of division next season will add to the excitement, even if it seems so far away.

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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