The New York Rangers and Washington Capitals are not strangers, especially in the playoffs. This isn’t the same Capitals team that the Rangers defeated in seven games last season. Things are different for both teams this time around.
This time, the Capitals have the higher seed and home ice advantage. It was imperative that the Capitals take advantage of this early against a beatable Rangers squad. Behind great goaltending and solid penalty killing, the Caps turned back the Rangers, 3-1, to take a 1-0 lead in the best of seven series.
“It’s one game,” said Caps coach Adam Oates. “Obviously you want to win them all, but it’s one game. We are still holding serve at home and we’ve just got to get ready tomorrow for Saturday.”
Carl Hagelin went behind the net and put a shot on goal that deflected off Capitals defenseman John Erskine’s skate to give the Rangers their first and only goal of the night. Hagelin would later have a breakaway chance stopped by goaltender Braden Holtby that was arguably one of the turning points in the Capitals momentum, in addition to killing off all Rangers power plays, including a 5-on-3 situation in the second period.
“Big kill,” said Capitals coach Adam Oates of the 5-on-3 penalty kill. “I thought the breakaway that Holts [Holtby] stopped on Hagelin was the big one though. “
The Capitals started to get their groove back thanks to a power play goal by Alex Ovechkin, the 31st of his career, setting the Capitals franchise record for playoff goals surpassing Peter Bondra, with whom he was tied for that honor.
Steven Oleksy proved he was more than just a pretty face by not only setting Marcus Johansson up with a lovely stretch pass, but also took a puck to the face and didn’t miss even one shift.
Marcus Johansson’s go-ahead goal in the second showcased his speed and finishing ability. Since returning to the lineup after being sidelined with a concussion, Johansson has flourished on the top line alongside Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. It was his fourth career playoff goal.
It’s probably safe to say that Jason Chimera had a pretty good day. He scored a goal, the eight playoff goal of his career, and it was his birthday. A win was the icing on the cake for him.
Braden Holtby was unequivocally the difference in this game. Aside from the early Hagelin goal, he was solid all evening for the Capitals, especially on the 5-on-3 kill, and made 35 saves on 36 shots he faced. Holtby ranks fifth all-time in Capitals franchise history with eight playoff wins. It is also interesting to note that in his fifteen career playoff appearances, he has not lost back-to-back games.
On the same token, the Capitals have not lost back –to-back playoff games in their last 15 playoff games. The last time that happened, the Capitals were swept out of the playoffs by the Tampa Bay Lightning on May 4, 2011.
Game 2 is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. on Saturday, May 4, 2013 at Verizon Center, and Game 3 is scheduled for May 6 at 7:30 p.m. at Madison Square Garden.