CAPITALS at RANGERS
(New York leads best-of-seven series 1-0)
TV: CBC, NBCSN, RDS
Big Story: If run-and-gun, wide-open, fast-paced hockey is your thing, then Game 1 of this series was not your thing. The Capitals and Rangers combined for 32 shots as the Rangers prevailed 3-1 with a pair of third-period goals from Chris Kreider and Brad Richards. Both teams were coming off seven-game, first-round wins, so perhaps it was a combination of tired legs and a feeling-out process that led to the sloppy hockey, but it's very likely that most games will be tight defensive battles.
Capitals: Sometimes analysts and fans will make judgments about a team when it loses about its intensity and level of play. It's hard to discern a loss caused by a lack of intensity from one caused by poor execution.
After practice on Sunday, Brooks Laich and Troy Brouwer agreed the Caps weren't as crisp as they needed to be in Game 1, but a lot of it had to do with the effort.
"It's an intense time of year and we're here to win," Laich said. "It takes so much to win that every little thing matters. If there's things I think we can be doing better, then I'm going to try to help to do that, try to find a way to get the most out of our guys. It's something we'll address in the room, and I don't care to share much more than that."
"We've been a pretty loose team all year long," Brouwer said. "I think that's a lot our personality as a team, but at the same time, you have to make sure you're tight. You have to make sure you're making crisp passes and being sharp. I think we were a little bit nonchalant."
Braden Holtby allowed three goals on 14 shots and admitted he needed to be better. Alex Ovechkin had just one shot in the loss while being matched up against the Rangers' top defense pair of Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi.
"You're not going to get any easy assignments from now on," said Laich, who plays on a line with Brouwer and Ovechkin. "Every goaltender you face is going to be good and you're going to face the top defensive pairings. That’s nothing new to us. Ovi plays against those guys all year long and we faced the Rangers last couple years in the playoffs. We know what to expect. We just have to be better."
Rangers: There was barely any room on the ice in Game 1 for either team, but that was to be expected against the Washington Capitals, who used their suffocating style to bounce the defending-champion Bruins in round one.
The Rangers used their patience and didn't take any risks in an attempt to find offense. It paid off beautifully, as Kreider and Richards scored in the third period to turn a close game into a two-goal victory.
"I think this is the way we are going to have to play," goalie Henrik Lundqvist said. "It may not be the most fun to watch sometimes, but the most important thing for us is to win."
Who's Hot: Chris Kreider and Derek Stepan have worked some magic together on the second line over the past three games. Kreider has two goals and an assist while Stepan has one goal and four assists.
Injury Report: The Capitals lack any new significant injuries. The Rangers' Brian Boyle (concussion) has missed the past three games but practiced Sunday. Brandon Dubinsky (lower body) was seen on crutches at the team's practice facility Sunday and will likely miss his second game in a row.
Stat Pack: The Capitals are 0-3 when allowing the first goal in the postseason and 3-12 when allowing the first goal in their last 15 playoff games.
Puck Drop: "One of the things I've always been taught is bad games happen. The key to consistency is not letting it happen twice. Bad things happen, but always be prepared for the next one. You learn way more from losing than you do from winning." -- Caps goaltender Braden Holtby