The consensus following Game 2 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series with the Capitals on Friday night was the New York Rangers
played a far better game than they did in Game 1.
They had a much improved first period, outshooting the Capitals 13-7 while controlling the territorial play, something coach John Tortorella made a point of emphasis between Games 1 and 2.
They held the Capitals to a mere 18 shots after allowing 29 in nearly 80 minutes of Game 1.
But at the end of Game 2, the Rangers were once again on the losing end, falling 2-0 after the Caps scored twice in 1:57 early in the second period to ruin what was a very solid effort by the Rangers up until that point.
"It's a valuable lesson, that's for sure," Tortorella said. "The second shift of the second period, we had some turnovers. It doesn't cause the goal, but I think it causes a momentum change right away in the second period. For about five or six minutes there, they surged on us. They scored a goal, we take a penalty, get an unfortunate bounce, and that's a big part of the game.
"I thought for most of the game, we played much better than the other night, much more of the style we need to play. We got hurt by a surge tonight. Good teams do it. We're going to have to try to get one ourselves as we go to our building."
The lucky bounce came during a Capitals power play. Defenseman Mike Green
had his shot from the right point blocked, but it deflected to Jason Arnott
as if it was a perfect cross-ice pass, and Arnott buried it to make it 2-0.
"They got a little lucky bounce there and took advantage of it," said Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist
, who made 16 saves. "We have to stay positive. We need everyone to play their absolute best to have a chance."
Inserting Sean Avery
into the lineup in place of Mats Zuccarello
seemed to have the desired effect. He played 10:22, much of it in the third period, and was his usually pesky self.
Avery could be found bumping with goaltender Michal Neuvirth
and scrapping after the play with any nearby Capitals player who didn't appreciate the tactic. Avery even had three shots, third most on the Rangers.
Tortorella liked what he saw from Avery, so it's probable he'll stay in the lineup for Sunday afternoon's Game 3
"I thought in the third period, that was a pretty good line," Tortorella said of Avery, Brian Boyle
and Brandon Prust
. "They gave us some zone time. I thought we did some really good forechecking with that line."
The glaring problem for the Rangers was once again the lack of scoring. They have just 1 goal in the series and missed on a couple of golden opportunities in the third period that could have cut the lead in half. The best scoring chance came when Prust found the puck on his stick with Neuvirth out of position, but his shot missed the mostly open net.
"You have to score a goal," Tortorella said. "We just have no room for any mistake when you don’t score a goal or score just one. That's what's happened.
"I'm not discouraged with the hockey club. We need to release some…just as far as scoring a goal. We need to just relax, play the way we did for a number of minutes tonight and just find a way to bang a couple in."
Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo