WASHINGTON -- Judging from the emotions in the Rangers’ dressing room after Saturday’s gut-wrenching 1-0 overtime loss to the Capitals, there is genuine anguish over the way this series is headed and why.
Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist was stewing in frustration after a 37-save performance that was spoiled by Mike Green’s game-winning power-play goal. Defenseman Ryan McDonagh had to fight back tears as he explained his delay of game penalty that led to the Caps’ man advantage.
And after two failed power plays of their own late in the game, neither of which yielded a single shot, the Rangers stare down a 2-0 hole as the series shifts back to New York.
"Really, really disappointed right now that we couldn’t come up with a win," Lundqvist said. "We gave ourselves a chance here, but we came up short."
The Rangers, who did not register a shot in the final 17:43 of play, have scored only one goal over the past two games, and it wasn't even a clean shot. Carl Hagelin's wraparound attempt deflected in off Caps defenseman John Erskine's skate in Game 1 on Thursday
The team's ailing power play is also 0-for-7 through the first two games of the series, a glaring Achilles' heel for a battle that is sure to come down to special teams.
By contrast, the Capitals entered the postseason with the top-ranked power play in the league; they have tallied a man-up marker in each of their two wins.
"We’re just too stagnant," Rangers coach John Tortorella said. "We’re almost paralyzed."
An intense, physical game was marked by the outstanding goaltending on both ends, from Lundqvist and from Caps netminder Braden Holtby, who made 24 saves in recording the shutout.
Lundqvist handled the bulk of the workload, turning away several Grade A scoring chances throughout the game. He made a terrific stop on Mathieu Perreault in front in the second period and stoned Caps veteran Jason Chimera from the doorstep with his right pad early in the third. Holtby didn’t feel as much pressure, but he was superb nonetheless, denying a couple of key chances late in the game, including Ryan Callahan’s short-sided attempt in the final frame.
"He [Lundqvist] was great. He played unbelievable," said Rick Nash, who hit the left post and drew a penalty late in the third. "We have to get some goals for him."
The penalty drawn by Nash -- a slashing call against Troy Brouwer with 3:44 left in regulation -- gave the Rangers their best chance of the game to take the lead. But the Capitals' stingy penalty kill held the Rangers without a shot -- an inspired effort that had the crowd at Verizon Center fired up.
"They’re a shot-blocking team that gets in the lanes well. They have a lot of courage," defenseman Dan Girardi said." I think it’s a matter of us beating their pressure and creating a lane for us and try to get shots through when we can."
The Rangers appeared to be in line for another power play with less than a minute left in the game when a puck deflected off Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner up and over the glass in Washington’s defensive zone with less than 46 seconds remaining.
It wasn’t called, as Alzner didn’t shoot or bat the puck over the glass, but the point seemed moot when the Rangers failed to cash in on a delay of game penalty when Caps defenseman Steve Oleksy sailed one over the glass 1:51 into the overtime period.
McDonagh was whistled for one, too (albeit after a shift that lasted 3:04, including a timeout) but the Capitals didn’t let their opportunity to cash in slip past.
Green, who led all defensemen in the regular season with 12 goals, beat Lundqvist glove-side eight minutes into overtime, sending the Rangers off the ice in disappointment.
"I just got a little too much under it," McDonagh said of the costly penalty.
The loss will burn for the Rangers, considering such a pristine performance by Lundqvist was wasted in a completely winnable game. The two-game deficit they now face is a daunting one even though they get Games 3 and 4 at home at Madison Square Garden.
But the Rangers insist they are ready for the challenge.
"It’s a challenge," Nash said. "We go home. The fans were into it [here]. I have no doubt that our fans will be waiting for us back home to make it a hard environment to play in. They’re two huge games, but we’ll worry about the first one."
McDonagh, whose bleary eyes were a reminder of just how bad this one stung, is already looking ahead to that.
"I’m already focusing on Game 3," McDonagh said. "I’m ready for it."