By Jim Cerny, BlueshirtsUnited.com
The Rangers rallied from an early two-goal hole to tie the Caps in the third period, but Alex Ovechkin's power play goal at 12:33 proved to be the difference as the Rangers dropped Game 2 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal series with Washington 3-2 Monday night at Madison Square Garden. The best-of-seven series heads to the nation's capital Wednesday night tied 1-1.
Brad Richards and Michael Del Zotto both recorded two points for the Rangers, who had Brian Boyle back in the lineup Monday after he missed the previous three games due to a concussion.
With Mike Knuble in the penalty box for high-sticking Ryan Callahan, the Rangers had tied the game 2-2 when Callahan deflected Del Zotto's wrist shot past Braden Holtby at 6:58 of the third period. The goal was Callahan's third of the post-season, and came with his back to the net while battling Caps defenders in front
However Washington was handed a pair of back-to-back power plays of their own, and they converted on the second one to regain the lead, 3-2, with just 7:27 to play. Four seconds after Richards was whistled for a holding penalty, Washington's Nicklas Backstrom won an offensive zone face off back to Ovechkin who sailed a shot through a Troy Brouwer screen in front for his third post-season goal.
Washington scored the first two goals of the game---over a five-minute span of the opening period---before the Rangers struck in the final seconds of the first to generate the 2-1 score the Capitals carried into the third period after a scoreless middle stanza.
An errant pass by Stu Bickel was intercepted by Washington midway through the first period and on the ensuing rush up ice Knuble banged in a centering feed from Keith Aucoin to give Washington its first lead of the series. Knuble's goal at 12:20 was his second of the playoffs.
Then a few minutes later, shortly after a failed Rangers power play, Chris Kreider was sprung on a breakaway, but the speedy rookie was denied when Holtby made a big-time save, The Capitals immediately countered the other way and after Lundqvist misplayed the puck behind his own net, Washington's Jason Chimera chipped one over the goal line during a scramble in front, giving the Caps a 2-0 lead at 17:14.
It looked like the Rangers would face a two-goal heading into the first intermission, but with 42.4 seconds remaining in the opening period Richards charged to the net to convert a pretty pass from Marian Gaborik, cutting the Blueshirts deficit in half. The goal was Richards' second of the series and fourth of the playoffs.
The Rangers were credited with 21 hits in the opening period of play---five for Callahan and four for Kreider. Thoguh they were not quite as physical in the second period, the Rangers controlled large swaths of play. However Holtby was stout in denying all eight shots he faced in the period, and his Caps teammates did an excellent job blocking a slew of other attempted shots in the scoreless middle twenty minutes.
Four-and-a-half minutes into the third period the Rangers came within inches of tying the game, but Del Zotto's booming slap shot---off a clean face off win by Richards---clanged off the iron behind Holtby and the Rangers deficit remained one.