New York Rangers head coach John Tortorella guaranteed that his team would be ready to play today. Well, not so much ... The Washington Capitals blitzed the Blueshirts Saturday afternoon and the Rangers never recovered from a first period that saw them badly outshot. Here’s how it all went down in Chinatown as the Caps put the Rangers down for good.
What it means
The Rangers season is over. The Caps will advance to the second round of the playoffs, while the Blueshirts will return to New York to recover for the summer and reflect on a strong season and playoff series chock full of “what might have been.”
Paging Patrick Ewing
So, about that guarantee ... Yes, the Rangers were ready for the first shift, but after an initial flourish from the Sean Avery-Brian Boyle-Brandon Prust trio, Washington dominated play for the next 10 minutes, outshooting New York 8-4. Mike Green put home the Caps first goal on their first power-play opportunity when Bryan McCabe went to the box for tripping at 5:42. In all, the 13 first-period shots by the Capitals were the most by Washington during the first 20 minutes in the series to date.
Both teams lost key members of their defense in the first period with Dan Girardi heading to the Ranger locker room after the Caps’ goal and didn’t return until the start of the second period. Meanwhile for the Caps, Mike Green’s face remains a magnet for the puck. After taking a puck to the dome against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Super Bowl Sunday, he absorbed a Matt Gilroy slapper to the side of his face late in the first Saturday and did not return despite taking the ice during a commercial break.
Hank the tank
Lundqvist was super sharp early, posting 12 first-period saves, and few of them were routine. He was the only thing that kept the Rangers in the game against a furious Caps charge. Down 2-0 in the third, he stopped Jason Chimera on what looked like a sure goal during a 2-on-1 break with Marcus Johansson. But as has been the theme throughout the series, the Rangers’ offense just gave him no help.
Caps defenseman Mike Green left the game after getting hit in the head by a puck off a shot from Rangers defenseman Matt Gilroy late in the first period. TV replays showed that the puck's impact broke part of Green's helmet. The Caps said via Twitter that Green was "currently being evaluated and his return is questionable."
Best vs. the Best
Friday we posted about an article from Neil Greenberg effectively stating that the shutdown pairing of Dan Girardi and Marc Staal had not really been handling the Caps’ top line, featuring Alex Ovechkin. That point was illustrated in high definition Saturday, as the Caps’ top trio of Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Brooks Laich generated five scoring chances at even strength in the first period. At 7:04 of the second period Ovechkin blew by Staal on the rush down the right wing, drew the puck to his back hand and beat Lundqvist to stake the Caps to a 2-0 lead.
Earning their first power play in the second period the Rangers put up three shots, but came away with no goal. The Blueshirts did no better (two shots, no goal) on their second with 2:40 left in second period. As you can imagine, at even strength it wasn’t any prettier for the Rangers. The only time New York managed to muster any offense in the first two periods was when Boyle was on the ice. It seriously looked like the Rangers had one forward line and five defensive quintets.
With the Caps sitting back a little early, the Rangers established some sustained offensive pressure for the first time since the opening shift. But that again faded and the Caps seemed to have the best chances of the period through the first 15 minutes. As the Rangers started to press late, the Caps beat the gambling Blueshirts for their third goal courtesy of Alex Semin. That was the nail in the coffin. The lone Ranger goal, from Wojtek Wolski with 31.5 seconds left, spoiled the shutout, but did little to resuscitate the Rangers' season.
The dissection of the Rangers’ season starts tomorrow. While the campaign came to a disappointing ending, as it will for all teams save one, you have to think it was a successful one for the young and building Rangers.