shavings rangers game 2

Door Number Two – After dropping Game 1 of their first-round Stanley Cup playoff series with the Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Sunday, the Caps will seek to even the set tonight in Manhattan.

Neither Nick Jensen (upper body) nor Rasmus Sandin (lower body) are ready to return to the Washington lineup yet; both skated on Tuesday morning, but both were still sporting powder blue non-contact sweaters. Vinny Iorio (upper body) joined his Jensen and Sandin in the powder blue this morning, while Hardy Häman-Aktell was summoned from AHL Hershey to give the team a seventh healthy defender.

In tonight’s Game 2, Lucas Johansen will make his Stanley Cup playoff debut. The Caps’ first-round pick (28th overall) in the 2016 NHL Draft, Johansen spent the first half of the season with Washington, getting into six games. Perhaps most notably, Johansen logged a single-game career high of 20:11 in ice time in a 4-1 victory over the Isles in New York back on Nov. 11, a game in which Washington was without a number of regulars on the second night of road back-to-backs.

Including Calder Cup playoff games, the 26-year-old Johansen has 289 games worth of AHL experience under his belt.

“Just reliable minutes,” responds Caps’ coach Spencer Carbery, when asked what he is looking for from Johansen’s NHL playoff debut tonight. “He’s done a good job, he’s played for us this year, earlier in the year. We’re very familiar with his game, having been in the organization for a long time. And he’s had success in the American League; won the Calder Cup with Hershey last year. So we’ve got a good grasp on his strengths as a player.

“For him, coming into his first NHL playoff game, he’s got a lot of experience. So this isn’t just someone that’s being thrown in at 21, 22 years old and has a hundred pro games under their belt. He’s played a lot of important games, with the majority being in the minor leagues, but also in playoff situations. So we’re just looking for reliable minutes, which I’m hopeful that he will provide.”

Johansen was recalled from AHL Hershey last week, becoming the eighth member of Hershey’s 2023 Calder Cup championship squad to find his way to the Washington playoff roster. When the Caps take the ice for tonight’s Game 2, you can expect to see six of those eight players in the Washington lineup.

“I’ve felt really good,” said Johansen last week, of his game in Hershey over the second half of the season. “Obviously, we’ve got a really good team down there, and a lot of guys with some good experience. We were really clicking there for a while, and I know we’re really excited for the playoffs to get going down there, too.”

Johansen played a significant role on Hershey’s Calder Cup winning team last spring, and he is excited for the opportunity to lend a postseason hand at this level.

“That would be awesome,” he said, when asked what it would mean to him to get a chance to make his playoff debut. “[Bears’ captain Dylan McIlrath] and I were just talking about that; there’s eight of us up here now, which is really cool. Everyone’s got a really important role here,  but yeah, if we could pull it off, that would be another thing that we could share together, and I know the guys in here really, really want that, so we’re going to do everything we can to get it done.”

Power Outage – One specific area in which Washington will seek improvements is on its power play. The Caps had a couple first-period power play opportunities when Game 1 was still scoreless, and they also had one each in the second and third periods, after Martin Fehervary’s goal pulled them to within two of the Rangers at 3-1. But the Caps’ extra man unit, one of the League’s best over the last two months of the regular season, was listless with its entries and didn’t generate enough zone time or threatening looks at the New York net.

“Entries were confirmed an issue,” says Carbery. “We struggled getting through their pressure at the blue line, whether that was with execution in the play, or whether it was speed, or support speed. And then after that, I think it's some sequences where I felt like we were a little bit disconnected, and I’m not sure what we were looking for when we had them on the ropes. And we had a couple of instances that were not good; we bump into each other, we're trying to do a handoff, we turn a puck over. It can’t happen. A couple other situations where we had an opportunity to attack and we choose the wrong option. We’ve just got to be cleaner with it.”

On their four power play opportunities, the Caps totaled three shots on net, and two of those – a John Carlson look from the slot and a Tom Wilson rebound try – resulted in excellent scoring chances. But each power play showed less luster than the one before it, and the Caps also had six shot tries blocked, and they missed the mark with five shot tries as well. The first Washington man advantage produced six shot attempts and the second produced five. But the last two produced a combined total of just three.

Ovechkin finished Game 1 with no shots on net – the first time he’s been held without a shot on goal in a playoff game since May 3, 2018 – but he had five attempts blocked and also missed the net twice. Two of those blocks and both of the misses came on the power play.

“The shot attempts were blocks from the flank,” says Carbery. “To me, he's not even trying to score there; he's just trying to get a puck in there. But we did get at the very end [of the first opportunity] we have a John Carlson slot line opportunity. That's a good look right there, but we should be able to generate more than [that and not have to] just settle for – on a two- minute power play – one Grade A at the end.

“And that’s not even a goal or a scoring chance, that’s momentum. That’s in zone, that’s being clean with our touches, that’s puck recoveries, putting them back on their heels. And again, not necessarily scoring a power play goal, but creating momentum at this time of year for your group, your entire team.”

And that’s the rub. Early in the second period of Game 1, New York took control of a scoreless contest with three goals in 126 seconds. The Caps were able to answer back just over a minute later to cut the deficit to a more manageable 3-1 with more than half of the game still remaining, but they squandered a pair of power play opportunities after the Fehervary goal; the first less than two minutes after what would be Washington’s lone goal of the game, and the second one early in the final frame. Converting on – or even stressing the Rangers’ defense during and after one of those man advantages – might have put the Caps on better footing to climb back into the game.

“We found a way the last couple of months to generate some good offensive chances,” says Caps’ center Dylan Strome of the team’s power play unit. “They didn't always have to be set up in the [offensive] zone obviously, with the way they forecheck. They're kind of sitting back, so we’ve got to find a way to get through that.

“Obviously, it starts with the face-offs, and we didn't win enough last game on the draws. And when we did win one – or kind of tied it up -- they seemed to find a way to get them out. The easiest way to beat their forecheck is to not have to forecheck, and not have to break in [to the zone]. So we’ve got to win the face-offs, got to win our battles to get the puck back, and then we’ve got lots of options out there. We talked a about it; obviously going 0-for-4 is not great, and we haven't scored against them this year, so we’ve got to find a way to capitalize.”

Credit also to the Rangers’ penalty kill, third best in the NHL during the regular season. That shorthanded outfit is at least half the reason Carbery professed his desire for his team to play as much of this series at 5-on-5 as possible.

In The Nets – Charlie Lindgren stopped 27 of the 31 shots he faced in his Stanley Cup playoff debut here in Game 1.

Last week, prior to the start of the playoffs, Lindgren held court for the media, and he mentioned that his preparation was something he takes a lot of pride in, and it’s one of the reasons he is able to stay so calm and composed in the crease in the heat of battle.

“I think a lot of it just comes down experience and confidence, honestly. I have a lot of faith and confidence in myself, I have a lot of faith and confidence in my teammates,” says Lindgren. “And when you’re prepared, that lessens the stress and that lessens the emotions because I think your preparation takes over, and I put a lot of pride into my preparation.”

A couple of days later, we asked Lindgren to drill down a bit on his preparation, to give us a window into what that looks like.

“Away from the rink, I’ve spent a lot of time just trying to figure out ways to essentially manage how my mind works,” says Lindgren. “And obviously, physically, I’m getting older. And they say when you’re 30 years old, you’re kind of in that physical peak. And mentally, I feel like I’m at my peak right now, too. So they both seem to be lined up.

“I’ll pick up on things that maybe opposing teams say before we play them; I’ll look for different things that maybe they’re saying. Of course, I like watching hockey, so I know a lot of the players around the League, and their tendencies they have. A lot of the players in the League can make big time plays and they’re great shooters, but every single guy has different tendencies. And I like paying attention to pre-scouts and power plays; I think that’s all a big part of preparation as well.”

The Caps have been good at bouncing back from bad beats this season, and Lindgren is one of the major reasons for that. He made 48 of his 102 career NHL starts this season, and only twice did he drop consecutive starts in regulation. During the 2023-24 regular season, Lindgren was 25-16-7. In the starts immediately following his 23 losses, Lindgren was 14-6-3.

New York netminder Igor Shesterkin is coming off his third straight season with 36 or more victories. With his Game 1 victory over Washington, Shesterkin stopped 20 of 21 shots he faced in evening up his career postseason mark at 14-14. Shesterkin has now permitted two or fewer goals against in 10 consecutive postseason starts, becoming just the sixth goaltender in NHL history to achieve the feat. Hockey Hall of Famer Martin Brodeur is the last netminder to do it; Brodeur strung together 14 such starts in the 2002 and 2003 Stanley Cup playoffs, and he is the all-time record holder.

Lifetime, Shesterkin is 10-4 in his 14 career playoff starts at MSG, and he has been reached for more than two goals against just twice in those 14 starts. Away from MSG in the postseason – including the 2020 “playoff bubble” – Shesterkin is 4-10.

All Lined Up – Here’s how the Caps and Rangers might look when they take the ice Sunday afternoon at MSG for the first-round series opener:



8-Ovechkin, 17-Strome, 43-Wilson

21-Protas, 24-McMichael, 77-Oshie

67-Pacioretty, 29-Lapierre, 15-Milano

47-Malenstyn, 26-Dowd, 96-Aubé-Kubel


42-Fehervary, 74-Carlson

27-Alexeyev, 57-van Riemsdyk

46-Johansen, 52-McIlrath





2-Iorio (upper body)

3-Jensen (upper body)

19-Backstrom (lower body)

25-Bear (NHL/NHLPA Player Assistance Program)

38-Sandin (upper body)








20-Kreider, 93-Zibanejad, 96-Roslovic

10-Panarin, 16-Trocheck, 13-Lafreniere

50-Cuylle, 91-Wennberg, 24-Kakko

26-Vesey, 21-Goodrow, 73-Rempe


55-Lindgren, 23-Fox

79-Miller, 4-Schneider

56-Gustafsson, 8-Trouba





17-Wheeler (lower body)

72-Chytil (upper body)