The Capitals had a golden opportunity to take a 3-0 stranglehold on their first-round series against the Rangers, but a slew of early penalties and a lack of success on their own power play late cost them Game 3 in a 4-3 loss at Madison Square Garden Monday night.
Although the Caps dominated 5-on-5 play for a bulk of the contest, the Rangers – sensing an urgent need to take the contest to have any chance in the series – scored twice in the third to grab the win. Derek Stephan tipped in a Rick Nash shot with just 6:25 left in regulation for the eventual game-winner.
The Caps had a chance late with an extra-man advantage for the game’s final 1:54, but Washington was a bit too passive even with a 6-on-4 and never really got a good chance for the equalizer on Henrik Lundqvist. Instead of shooting, they held the puck, and as a result, couldn’t force overtime.
Washington let a golden chance for a quick series win to vanish as a result, as the Capitals now will have to try and settle for a series split Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden, with at least one more game in Washington now on tap for Friday night at Verizon Center.
The night started off well for Washington, as the Caps broke out in front just 4:06 into the game, as Nicklas Backstrom tipped a John Carlson shot past Lundqvist to give the Caps their first first-period lead of the series.
However, after Washington couldn’t convert on a power play shortly after, Joel Ward took a high-sticking minor in the defensive zone – in a flashback to last year’s Game 5 – and the Rangers scored as the minor expired to even the game as Brian Boyle to even the game.
The goal was the Rangers’ first since the first period of Game 1, breaking Braden Holtby’s shutout streak at 124:06, and also was the first goal directly off a Rangers stick in the series.
New York went up just 83 seconds into the second, scoring 8 seconds into a tripping penalty on Holbty as Darick Brassard rifled one past the Capitals netminder. Washington’s penalty-killers were put to the test over the first half of the period, giving up two more minor penalties, but were able to stay within one.
Once the penalty parade subsided, the Capitals were strong at even-strength over the remainder of the middle period, generating one power play and eventually a Mike Green equalizer, as he shot a blast past Lundqvist.
The Rangers, sensing the importance of winning the third period, came out fast in the third, and Aaron Asham caught the Capitals’ defense out of position and beat Holtby just 2:53 into the frame and gave the hosts the lead back.
Washington responded 4:22 later, as Jack Hillen’s shot from the point was tipped by Jay Beagle past Lundqvist, bringing the Capitals even and putting pressure on the Rangers.
New York pressed again after the equalizer, and were able to retake the lead with 6:25 left in regulation, as Derek Stepan tipped in a Rick Nash shot for a 4-3 lead for the hosts.
The Capitals got a late chance with 1:54 left in regulation as Brad Richards caught Alex Ovechkin under his visor for Washington’s third power-place chance of the evening. But Washington played a bit to casually with the power play and failed to convert with a chance to force overtime.
Washington has never held a 3-0 series lead in a best-of-seven series, and now are 0-8 in that situation, as the Capitals will look to earn the split Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden.