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Rangers pick up a win at home in a battle of goaltenders

rangers celebrate a goal 5-2

The Rangers picked up a big win on home ice, evening the series at one goal a piece with Game 3 in Washington DC on Monday. Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

Bobby Bevilacqua

In one of the most intense games played at Madison Square Garden this season, Henrik Lundqvist and the New York Rangers prevailed in a battle of goaltenders to even the series at one game apiece with the series heading to the Verizon Center for Game 3.

This marked the ninth consecutive playoff game decided by one goal for the New York Rangers, dating back to Game 4 of the 2014 Stanley Cup Finals against the Los Angeles Kings. The win was also the first Game 2 win at Madison Square Garden following a Game 1 loss since 1994.

Following a heartbreaking loss in Game 1, the message from Alain Vignealt got through to the team, and the Rangers got off to a fantastic start, scoring the first goal of the game just 38 seconds into the opening period.

Vigneault kept the lineup the same, but switched around the lines a bit. After a rough Game 1, JT Miller was placed back on the third line with Carl Hagelin and Kevin Hayes, a line that worked well in the past. Jesper Fast was given a shot on the second line alongside Derek Stepan and Chris Kreider, and that line was tremendous throughout the game.

Henrik Lundqvist may have had one of his best playoff performances ever today, making countless big time saves throughout the game to keep the Rangers ahead throughout the entire game. You could make a highlight reel from some of his saves tonight. In the first game, Ovechkin shouted at him “All series baby,” after scoring a goal. Combine that with the shocking loss, and Lundqvist was able to use that energy and anger to fuel him today, something pointed out by Derick Brassard and Lundqvist himself.

Henrik Lundqvist stack the pads save 5-2

This guys is just too good. Incredible pad save on Evgeny Kuznetsov in the second period. Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

Early in the first period, Henrik Lundqvist made a sprawling glove save on Ovechkin, open and alone in front of the net. In the second period he stopped a puck up high, and he recovered and blockered it away before it could bounce into the net. He followed that up with a tremendous save on Evgeny Kuznetsov, going old-school around the world and stacking the pads, which can be seen here. It really was an amazing game from him.

Just 38 seconds into the game, the Rangers got exactly the start that they wanted, and it was Chris Kreider scoring his second goal of the playoffs. On a long dump in, Derek Stepan hustled to retrieve the puck first before spinning and making a great pass to Jesper Fast charging towards the net. He redirected the puck at Holtby, but the rebound was left for Kreider to clean up, giving the Rangers the lead.

chris kreider goal 5-2

Chris Kreider scored the first goal of the game, cashing in on a Holtby rebound after great passing from Stepan and Fast. Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

That goal really set the tone for the period, and the Rangers completely dominated the first 20 minutes. At the end of the period, they led the Capitals in shots by a 15-4 margin, and shot attempts were 28-6, also in the Rangers favor. The team corsi, representing possession and shot attempts for, was at a mindboggling 82.4% in favor of New York. The Capitals were also held without a shot for over 10 minutes.

New York would tally another goal in the period on the man advantage courtesy of Dan Boyle’s first goal of the playoff. Rick Nash tried a stuff in attempt, but was denied by Holtby. The Capitals tried to clear the puck, but it seemed to die against the boards, and Dan Boyle was able to keep the puck in the zone. Boyle fired a quick shot on net, and Nash provided a perfect screen to distract Holtby and help give the Rangers a 2-0 lead.

In the second period, you could see the Capitals start to play with some desperation. The Rangers became somewhat of a shell for the first half of the period, with the Capitals dictating the pace of play. Evgeny Kuznetsov wound up getting one goal back for the Capitals on what looked like a broken play. On a long dump in, Jason Chimera was able to beat his defender to backhand a harmless shot on net. Lundqvist left a rebound to the middle of the ice, and Kuznetsov was able to shoot it through Boyle’s legs and into the back of the net, cutting the lead to 2-1.

The Rangers would push back, and that momentum carried into the third period. Following a penalty to Derick Brassard, the Capitals league-leading power play took the ice. The Rangers killed it off, and shortly after, Derick Brassard came through in the clutch yet again, scoring his fourth goal of the playoffs.

derick brassard goal celebration 5-2

Derick Brassard scored to extend the Rangers lead to 3-1, the eventualy game winner. Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

Rick Nash made the play in the neutral zone to work the puck over to Martin St. Louis. His pass somehow trickled through the sticks of two defenders, bouncing over their sticks, and to Derick Brassard alone in front. He quickly turned and shot the puck at Holtby, managing to sneak through his pads and into the net, giving New York their two goal lead back.

Alex Ovechkin would answer back, cutting the lead to just one goal again with one of the goals of the season. Alone in the Rangers zone, Ovechkin was well defended by both Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi. While falling to the ice, Ovechkin managed to get a strong wrist shot off, beating Lundqvist up high for his second goal in as many games.

With Holtby pulled, and the Capitals pressuring hard, they kept pouring shots on net, prompting Dan Girardi to say afterwards that “it felt like they had 20 guys on the ice.” But two big stops on Troy Brouwerand Mike Green sealed the win for the Rangers.

Vigneault decided to switch up the lines for this game, and he may have found something with Kreider, Stepan and Fast. Jesper Fast has always been a smart player, defensively responsible, with flashes of offensive brilliance. After a goal in Game 1, the first playoff goal of his career, Fast was energized tonight, playing perhaps the best game of his NHL career. Crisp passing from the entire line, a lot of possession, and Chris Kreider had tons of opportunities, but was denied by Holtby. This line will stay together.

The fourth line was also very productive today. They spent a lot of time in the offensive zone, pinned the Capitals top defenders back in their own zone, which made it easier for the top line to get some more room. They also had some good chances, so it was a good night for them.

The Rangers and Capitals will play again on Monday Night, the first game at the Verizon Center in this series.

THREE STARS

1) Henrik Lundqvist – 30 SV, .938 SV%

2) Chris Kreider – 1 G, 3 SOG, 4 MS, 4 HT, 18:27 TOT

3) Jesper Fast – 1 A, 2 SOG, 2 HT, 15:05 TOT

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Posted on May 2, 2015, in Game Recaps and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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