Long Time, No See: Rivals during their Patrick Division days, the Caps and Rangers met four times in the playoffs – splitting those series – from 1986 through 1994. In 1986, G John Vanbiesbrouck led the fourth-place Rangers to a second-round upset of a 107-point Washington team. In 1990, the Caps returned the favor, eliminating the first-place Rangers behind John Druce's stunning explosion of postseason goals.
Capital Punishment: The Caps went 3-0-1 against the Rangers this season, losing only in a shootout at Madison Square Garden on Feb. 11. Washington staged a noteworthy comeback from a 4-0, second-period deficit to win, 5-4 in overtime, on Dec. 23 in New York. The Rangers haven't won in Washington since Feb. 10, 2007.
Irresistable Force vs. Immovable Object: The Caps boast a lethal one-two offensive combination in the League in Maurice Richard Trophy-winning LW Alex Ovechkin (56 goals) and defenseman Mike Green (31 goals). No Ranger scored 30 goals or 60 points and none of their defenseman reached double figures in goals. But they had the league's best penalty-killing unit and a goaltender, Henrik Lundqvist, who recorded a career-high 38 victories.
Opposites Attracting: Lundqvist was voted a Vezina Trophy finalist in each of his first three NHL seasons and this year became the first goalie in League history to open his career with four straight 30-win seasons. He has been in the net for 23 of the Rangers' 24 playoff games over the last three post-seasons. 32-year-old G Jose Theodore will be making his Washington playoff debut.
Schoenfeld Switches Benches: In the 1994 playoffs, Jim Schoenfeld coached Washington against a steamrolling Rangers team that was on its way to a Stanley Cup. Schoenfeld is now an assistant coach for the Rangers, having added that role to his duties as club assistant GM when John Tortorella replaced Tom Renney as head coach on Feb. 23.
NHL Playoff Appearance: 20th (second consecutive)
Stanley Cups: none
Last Playoff Series Win: 1998 (Conference Final vs. Buffalo)
All-Time Playoff Series Record: 10-19
All-Time Playoff Game Record: 72-89
The Capitals captured consecutive division titles for the second time in franchise history (1999-2000 and 2000-01) and set a single-season franchise mark with 108 points (50-24-8), surpassing their 107 in 1985-86. The Capitals ranked third in the League with 272 goals, their most since they talied 277 in 1993-94. Their power play ranked second in the NHL, scoring at a 25.2% clip (85 for 337), the team's highest percentage ever.
Each of Washington's top four scorers – LW Alex Ovechkin, C Nicklas Backstrom, LW Alexander Semin and D Mike Green – averaged more than a point per game for the season. No NHL team has gotten a point per game from its top four scorers since the 1995-96 Pittsburgh Penguins (Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr, Ron Francis and Petr Nedved). In 49 of the Capitals' 50 wins this season at least one of the four scored a goal. The one exception was a 2-1 win Dec. 6 in Toronto.
LW Alex Ovechkin ranked second in the NHL points race with 110 (56 goals, 54 assists) and became the fourth player in League history to post 100-plus points in three of his first four NHL seasons (following Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux and Dale Hawerchuk). Ovechkin recorded points in 20 of his last 22 games, posting separate nine- and 10-game point streaks in that stretch. Ovechkin led the League in shots for the fourth time in his four NHL seasons with a career-high 528, more than 100 ahead of his closest competitor. He became the second player in NHL history to surpass 500 shots in a season and would have challenged Phil Esposito's NHL-record of 550 had he not missed four games.
Ovechkin scored 56 goals to capture the Maurice Richard Trophy, awarded the NHL's goal-scoring leader. He became the first Richard winner in consecutive years since Florida's Pavel Bure in 2000 and 2001. Ovechkin reached the 50-goal milestone for the third time in his career, becoming the second active player to record three 50-goal seasons (joining Teemu Selanne) and the third player all-time to post three 50-goal seasons in his first four years in the NHL (joining Mike Bossy and Wayne Gretzky).
Mike Green led all NHL defensemen in scoring with 73 points (31 goals, 42 assists) in 68 games and ranked second on the club in plus-minus (+24). Green set an NHL record for defensemen by scoring a goal in eight consecutive games from Jan. 27 to Feb. 14, breaking Mike O'Connell's 25-year-old League record. During his record-setting streak, Green posted 10 goals and 7 assists for 17 points. Green set a Capitals record for defensemen with 18 power-play goals, one shy of Sheldon Souray's NHL record. He became just the seventh NHL blueliner with a 30-goal season, the first since the Caps' Kevin Hatcher in 1992-93 and the only one to do so in fewer than 70 games. His per-game scoring average of 1.07 is the most by a defenseman since 1994-95 (Edmonton's Paul Coffey, 1.29).
LW Alexander Semin was named the NHL's First Star of the Month for October, averaged nearly two points per game in November (5-6--11 in six games) and was the NHL's leading scorer before being sidelined by injury in a game against New Jersey Nov. 14. Semin finished the regular season as the club leader in plus-minus (+25), ranked second in goals (34) and third in assists (45).
C Nicklas Backstrom ranked fifth in the NHL in assists (66) in his sophomore season. Only seven players have posted more assists in their first two NHL seasons than Backstrom's 121. Backstrom finished 10th in the NHL in points with 88 (22 goals, 66 assists), the most by a Capitals player other than Alex Ovechkin in 20 years (Mike Ridley had 89 points in 1988-89).
G Jose Theodore recorded the best winning percentage of his career (32-17-5) and his third 30-victory season. Jim Carey and Olie Kolzig are the only other goaltenders in Capitals history to post a 30-win campaign.
Oct. 16: The Capitals scored three unanswered goals in the third period to pull out a 4-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins, who had gone 10-1-1 in their previous 12 games against Washington. Boyd Gordon scored the game-winner with less than five minutes to play for the Capitals, who outshot the Penguins 21-6 in the final period.
Nov. 6: Early-season scoring sensation Alexander Semin continued his torrid start by scoring twice in the final 2:43 - including the game-winner with 10.7 seconds left - to give the Capitals a 3-2 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes. Despite being held without a goal for a career-high eighth consecutive game, Alex Ovechkin earned assists on all three Washington goals.
Dec. 23: The Capitals erased a 4-0 New York Rangers lead to post a 5-4 overtime victory for Washington's first win at Madison Square Garden in nearly five years. Alex Ovechkin sparked the comeback with a goal and two assists - including the game-tying goal with fewer than eight minutes left - and defenseman Shaone Morrisonn capped the rally with a goal at 59 seconds into overtime. It marked just the second time in Rangers history they had not won a home game when leading 4-0.
Jan. 6: Facing a Philadelphia Flyers team that had eliminated them in the first round of the 2008 Stanley Cup Playoffs and had beaten them decisively in their only previous 2008-09 meeting, the Capitals turned the tables with a 2-1 shootout victory. The victory was Washington's 12th in the past 13 games and their 18th in the past 20. Goaltender Jose Theodore stopped 33 shots and all three shootout attempts to record the victory.
Jan. 14: Three months after staging a dramatic third-period comeback at Pittsburgh's Mellon Arena, the Capitals did it again in their second and final visit of the regular season. Alex Ovechkin tallied two goals and an assist - all in the third period - as the Capitals rallied for a 6-3 victory and snapped a three-game losing streak.
New York Rangers
NHL Playoff Appearance: 52nd (fourth consecutive)
Stanley Cups: 4 (1928, 1933, 1940, 1994)
Last Playoff Series Win: 2008 (Conference Quarter-Final vs. New Jersey)
All-Time Playoff Series Record: 44-47
All-Time Playoff Game Record: 194-208-8
Mar. 3: Claimed LW Sean Avery on waivers from Dallas.
Mar. 4: Acquired D Derek Morris from Phoenix for D Dmitri Kalinin, LW Nigel Dawes and RW Petr Prucha.
Mar. 4: Acquired C Nik Antropov from Toronto for the Rangers' 2nd-round pick in the 2009 Entry Draft and a conditional pick in 2010.
The Rangers qualified for the playoffs for the fourth straight season after having missed the previous seven seasons. The Rangers have made the playoffs 52 times in their 83-season history, racing out to a 10-2-1 start and winning more than 40 games for the fourth straight season.
Though only four seasons into his NHL career, G Henrik Lundqvist already has climbed high up the Rangers' career goaltending lists while establishing himself as the team's franchise player. With 142 victories, he is sixth on the club's all-time victories list. His 20 shutouts rank him seventh in Rangers history. He held opponents to two goals or fewer 44 times this season in becoming the first goaltender in NHL history to begin his career with four straight 30-win seasons.
C Scott Gomez scored 16 goals, which matched his total from 2007-08. Of that total, seven were game-winners. His 42 assists led the Rangers and he logged more ice time on a nightly basis (21:03) than any Blueshirts forward.
Captain Chris Drury's reputation as a clutch performer was enhanced when he scored two goals in a pivotal victory over Montreal Apr. 7. Drury led the Rangers with 10 power-play goals. His 90 blocked shots were tops among Rangers forwards and a major reason for the Rangers' season-long success on the penalty kill.
The acquisition of wingers Nik Antropov and Sean Avery and D Derek Morris retooled the Rangers' lineup at the trade deadline. The Rangers went 11-6-1 after the moves as Antropov scored seven goals, Avery had 12 points and Morris chipped in eight assists in their 18 games with the Rangers.
John Tortorella took over as head coach Feb. 23 with the Rangers having lost 10 of 12. Switching playing styles to Tortorella's favored attack-oriented approach, they went 12-7-2 to secure a playoff berth. Tortorella had served as the Rangers' interim head coach for the final four games of the 1999-2000 season before going on to lead Tampa Bay to the 2004 Stanley Cup.
Oct. 5: The Rangers posted a 2-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning, completing a sweep of the two-game NHL Premiere series in Prague. Off-season free agent signing Wade Redden figured in both Rangers goals, scoring the tying goal early in the second period and assisting on Scott Gomez' game-winner nine minutes later.
Oct. 25: The Rangers improved to 8-2-1 on the season with a dramatic 3-2 shootout victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins. One night after tallying three points and earning First Star honors in his return to Columbus, off-season trade acquisition Nikolai Zherdev scored the game-tying goal with 8.1 seconds remaining in regulation.
Jan. 16: The Rangers' special teams had their biggest night of the season in a 3-2 overtime victory at Chicago. New York killed 10 of 11 Chicago power plays, including four of five 5-on-3s and a continuous Chicago manpower advantage of 5:45 late in the second period. Their power-play was effective as well, as Chris Drury scored the overtime winner 11 seconds after Chicago's Andrew Ladd went to the penalty box.
Mar. 17: The Rangers took three one-goal leads and relinquished them all, but still gained a crucial road victory by defeating the Montreal Canadiens 4-3 with their League-leading 10th shootout win. The Canadiens outshot the Rangers 16-5 in the third period and scored the game-tying goal with fewer than five minutes remaining in regulation, but goaltender Henrik Lundqvist blanked them the rest of the way and upped his personal shootout record to 9-4 on the season.
Apr. 9: The Rangers defeated the Philadelphia Flyers 2-1 in a tense encounter at Madison Square Garden to clinch an Eastern Conference playoff berth. Facing the Flyers in the front end of a home-and-home series to end the season. Henrik Lundqvist was named the game's First Star with a 37-save performance.