WASHINGTON -- The once free-wheeling Washington Capitals have allowed one goal in nearly seven periods of hockey to start the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs. That doesn't mean coach Bruce Boudreau is satisfied.
Michal Neuvirth made 22 saves in his second NHL postseason start and the Capitals suffocated the New York Rangers on Friday night in a 2-0 victory at Verizon Center that gives Washington a 2-0 lead in this Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series.
"I think the first 10 minutes we hung on and the whole third period we played in our zone," Boudreau said. "I don't think if we want to be successful in the end that can be done."
It is possible Boudreau may be looking for ways to keep his team from avoiding a letdown when this series shifts to Manhattan and Madison Square Garden for Game 3 on Sunday afternoon (3 p.m. ET, NBC, TSN, RDS), because Washington's new-look, defense-first philosophy appeared in total command of this contest after a quick start to the second period.
Neuvirth stopped 13 shots in the first period but saw only nine in the final 40 and wasn't asked to make many standout stops. The Capitals blocked 21 shots and frustrated the Rangers with their ability to keep them away from the dangerous scoring areas.
"We have found ways to get wins and we're playing pretty well defensively," center Boyd Gordon said. "They came at us hard and they get pucks deep and they're good down low. I think for the most part we limited their chances. We got pucks in and got pucks out and that's what we have to do if we want to keep winning."
Washington got all the offense it needed in less than two minutes early in the second period. After that, the Capitals relied on their newfound defensive prowess to turn aside the punchless Rangers. New York had a solid opening 20 minutes, but couldn't beat Neuvirth and didn't seem to have the same spark in the final two periods.
Jason Chimera put the Capitals in front 2:11 into the second period. Brooks Laich made a great one-handed pass from behind the New York net to Marcus Johansson, and the rookie center sent the puck into the slot for a one-timer by Chimera, who scored his second career playoff goal.
Laich said before the game he felt his line needed to generate more chances by shooting the puck more and Chimera had four shots on net in the first 23 minutes.
Jason Arnott made it 2-0 less than two minutes later with a power-play goal. Mike Green's shot from the right point never made it to Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist; it hit someone in front of the net and ended up on Arnott's stick in the left circle. The veteran center buried a high shot to the short side at 4:08.
"It's going to happen. Hockey games change -- it can be a hit, save or whatever," said Lundqvist, who had no chance on either goal. "Just the energy in the game changes fast. We had a couple turnovers and they got going. They got the power play right after and little lucky bounce there and took advantage of it. We have to stay positive."
It was Arnott's 31st career playoff goal and Washington's first with the extra man in this postseason. The Capitals went 1-for-33 on the power play in their seven-game loss to Montreal last spring.
"Special teams are going to win you games all the time," Boudreau said. "We got a lucky break where it deflected right onto to [Arnott's] stick, but it was a great shot and he deserved to score."
Mike Knuble had the best scoring chance of a scoreless opening 20 minutes. Laich sent a pass to him on a shorthanded 2-on-1 -- just like the one he converted from Gordon in Game 4 against Montreal last season -- but Knuble chipped the puck high and wide of the net.
Otherwise it was a solid period for the Rangers, who were looking for a response after losing 2-1 in overtime in Game 1. New York outhit Washington 18-11 in the opening period and outshot the Capitals 13-7.
"I thought we played much better than the other night," New York coach John Tortorella said. "I thought it was much more the style that we play. We got hurt by a surge tonight. Good teams do it. We'll try to get one ourselves as we go to our building."
Boudreau may not have liked how his team sat back in the third period, but it never felt like the Rangers were going to threaten. In the past when the Capitals let up there were usually defensive breakdowns and tons of quality scoring chances on a besieged goaltender.
That was not the case Friday night, as the Capitals again looked like a more mature outfit than the ones that have faltered on the League's biggest stage in years past.
"We know though after the second period they were going to come out hard and put all five guys in our zone," said captain Alex Ovechkin, who had only two shots on goal but was credited with six hits in less than 20 minutes of ice time as Boudreau was able to manage the minutes of his top players well after an overtime game Wednesday night. "We just play it safely in our zone and try not to make no mistakes in the neutral zone especially.
"Everybody wants to win and it doesn't matter how -- physical game or simple plays or fancy moves, I don't know. It takes whatever it takes to win the game."