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Rangers blanked in D.C. despite stellar performance from Lundqvist

Bobby Bevilacqua

rangers vs capitals 5-4

The Rangers and Capitals met for a Game 3, continuing the trend of strong goaltending, physical play and lots of action. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

One lucky bounce was the difference maker tonight at the Verizon Center, and unfortunately that bounce went in favor of the Washington Capitals, handing the Rangers a 1-0 loss, and a 2-1 deficit in the series despite the fact that New York actually played much better throughout the game.

Tonight marked just the fourth time in Rangers’ franchise history that they lost by a 1-0 score. The last time was on May 4th, 2013 against the Capitals in overtime, and then again in 1937 and 1931, both 1-0 losses to the Chicago Blackhawks.

Henrik Lundqvist, playing in his 100th career postseason game, was nothing short of spectacular, finishing with 21 saves on the night, and only getting beat on a deflection of Keith Yandle’s skate. Henrik Lundqvist is actually the first Ranger ever to play in 100 playoff games, marking an extremely successful career. In all eight playoff games this season, Lundqvist has been stupendous, and is holding together a team with an offense that is struggling to score.

The Rangers actually outplayed the Capitals in Game 3, by a pretty convincing margin. The scoring chances were 36-20 in the Rangers favor, with most of New York’s chances coming close to the net. The 36 scoring chances all came at even strength as wellThey also outshot the Capitals 30-22, and limited Ovechkin and Backstrom’s effectiveness at even strength.

But the Capitals have been playing very good team defense in front of Holtby, using their size and strength to their advantage. They remind me of the 2012 Rangers that went to the Eastern Conference Finals; a big, shot blocking team (23 blocked shots tonight) that wins by relying heavily on their goaltender, chipping in a few goals, and playing blue collar hockey. And so far, it’s been pretty successful against the Rangers, but they can counter it if they stick to their game plan.

The best forwards for the Rangers tonight were Rick Nash, Chris Kreider, and Kevin Hayes. Nash had seven shots on goal, generated a lot of scoring opportunities for himself and his teammates, recording 15 shot attempts, seven on goal and seven blocked. I don’t know why, but he isn’t getting any puck luck. Take for example early in the first period, when his laser beam of a wrist shot snuck through the pads of Holtby, but trickled just wide of the net, glancing off of the outer post. Most of the times that’s in, but he just hasn’t had much luck. I truly believe it will come, because he’s doing absolutely everything right with the puck.

rick nash shooting 5-4

Rick Nash had a really good game on Monday night, leading the way with 15 shot attempts. He’s getting no luck right now, which must be frustrating, but I truly think he will start scoring goals soon. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

 

Chris Kreider was very aggressive early, fueling the Rangers aggression in the opening period with hard hitting and puck possession in the Capitals zone. He’s been really good in this series, and he can combat the Caps’ size and strength, as well as use his speed to his advantage. Kevin Hayes was really good tonight, playing like he did down the stretch of the regular season. He was able to showcase his puck possession skills throughout the night and make some nice plays. Hopefully all of this carries over into Game 4, a game the Rangers really need to win.

The first period was mostly Rangers, controlling the pace of play, getting the better chances, and stopping the Capitals from getting anything going at even strength. The Caps had some chances on the power play, but Lundqvist was tremendous. On the first man advantage for Washington, he denied an Ovechkin wrister from 15 feet out, and didn’t allow a rebound. On their second power play, Lundqvist gloved an Ovechkin one timer, and stopped the rebound when Joel Ward tried to bat it out of midair.

In the second period, the Capitals did a better job of containing the Rangers speed, making it hard for them to play their North-South game, clogging up the neutral zone. The Rangers lost a bit of their momentum following a failed power play attempt.

The lone goal of the game came in this period, with Jay Beagle scoring on the lucky bounce for his first goal of the playoffs. On a long dump in, the Capitals were able to get there quickly enough to work the puck away from Martin St. Louis. Andre Burakovsky passed it to Beagle for a one timer, which Lundqvist made a good stop on. But Beagle retrieved the loose puck behind the net, and tried to throw it on net on a wraparound opportunity. The puck happened to deflect off of Keith Yandle’s skate, and then off of Lundqvist’s skate and into the net.

Despite a strong push in the third period, including a few chances with the puck loose in the crease, the Rangers could not score a goal of their own, giving them a frustrating 1-0 loss in Washington D.C.

Getting 36 even strength scoring chances, 30 shots on goal, and numerous other chances, and then losing is pretty damn hard to do. This is just one of those games where you have to tip your hat to Braden Holtby, who played a strong game. The Rangers need to do a better job of getting him to move laterally, and screening him, but he played well.

Game 4 will be Wednesday night at 7:30 at the Verizon Center. The Rangers will need to rebound and pick up a big win.

THREE STARS

1) Henrik Lundqvist – 21 SV, .955 SV%

2) Rick Nash – 7 SOG, 15 SA, 2 HT, 19:42 TOT

3) Chris Kreider – 5 SOG, 6 HT, 18:49 TOT

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Posted on May 5, 2015, in Game Recaps and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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