Rapid Reaction: Capitals 4, Rangers 1

April, 7, 2012
4/07/12
9:00
PM ET
What it means: After dropping the last two games of the regular season -- including Saturday's 4-1 loss to the Capitals -- the Rangers will face the Ottawa Senators in the first round of the playoffs. The team flubbed an opportunity to secure the franchise’s first Presidents’ Trophy since the 1993-94 Stanley Cup-winning season outright, but may still finish atop the league standings should Vancouver fall to Edmonton later tonight.

Holtby steps up: Without injured goaltenders Michal Neuvirth and Tomas Vokoun, the Capitals received a stellar effort from 22-year-old Braden Holtby in goal. Holtby made 35 saves to beat the Rangers in only his sixth start of the season.

Quick draw: The Rangers fell behind early on Alex Ovechkin’s 38th goal of the season, scored off the draw 32 seconds into play. Ovechkin snapped a wrist shot past Lundqvist after Brooks Laich beat 21-year-old Derek Stepan from the left circle.

Early hole: After Ovechkin’s early marker, The Capitals tallied again less than two minutes later on Mathieu Perreault’s deflection in front at 2:18, the second goal Lundqvist surrendered in as many shots faced. Just when the Rangers appeared to gain some traction late in the period, John Carlson’s one-timer gave the Capitals a 3-0 lead with less than two minutes to play. Carlson’s power-play goal appeared to deflect in off Artem Anisimov’s stick at 18:13.

Boyle on board: With the Rangers trailing 4-0, gritty center Brian Boyle got New York on the scoresheet with his backhanded goal from the left post at 12:44 in the second. After battling lengthy droughts throughout the season, Boyle has four goals in the last eight games.

Now they wait: The Rangers can still win the Presidents' trophy, but that will depend on the outcome of the Vancouver-Edmonton game. The Canucks can nab the league title with a single point against the lowly Oilers. Puck drops at 10 p.m. ET.

Consolation prize: Despite the dispiriting loss to close out the regular season, the Rangers may still have some good news on the horizon. Top prospect Chris Kreider could sign with the team following Saturday’s NCAA Championship game at the Frozen Four between his Boston College Eagles and the Ferris State Bulldogs. Rangers assistant general manager Jeff Gorton is on hand to facilitate Kreider’s signing should he choose to turn professional.
Katie Strang covers the NHL for ESPN.com. She is a graduate of Michigan State University and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.
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