Saturday, May 12, 2012

That Close, But That Far

Caps 1, Rangers 2 New York wins series 4-3
Game Summary - Event Summary 

(Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images)
Exactly what plagued the Washington Capitals in game seven of the Eastern Conference Semifinals is what plagued them all season long; lack of offense. It is probably why when Dale Hunter took over for the beleaguered Caps he went with a solid defensive style. But little good it did them in the biggest game of the season, where the Caps came up short in the post season. Again. With a loss to the New York Rangers 2-1.

It wasn't the best of starts for the Caps. They were forced on their heels early when the Rangers decided to use their speed early jumping on loose pucks and their forecheck was pressing the Caps defense and turning over pucks. It would lead to the first goal of the game when Carl Hagelin circled the net and found Cap killer Brad Richards open in the left circle. Richards slapped a shot that fooled young goaltender Braden Holtby making it 1-0 with the game just 1 minute and 32 seconds old.

Even though the goal happened early, the Rangers went to shut down mode. Still using their speed for some random forechecks, they mostly sat back and leaned on Henrik Lundqvist to come up big for them. And did he ever. When the Rangers faltered, his pad or glove or stick was there for the save. It frustrated the Capitals' talented forwards it played into the Rangers hands.

(Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images)
A flurry of offensive chances in the second period lead to some spectacular saves by Lundqvist, but that is all the Capitals could muster through two periods. It would actually take a Michael Del Zotto goal to get their offense going. After a lackluster change on the fly, the Caps were still in good defensive posture when Marion Gaborik put in a harmless shot on net, saved by Holtby. But Del Zotto would follow up the rebound untouched and put it past the 22 year old goaltender to make it 2-0.

Roman Hamrlik would have the answer just :38 seconds later. The Rangers sort of fell apart defensively as the Capitals made some good passes on a break up the ice. Brooks Laich found Hamrlik cutting into the slot and with Troy Brouwer parked in front, the chip shot found the back of the net. It cut the lead in half, but it would the Caps' high water mark in the 2012 post season.

The Caps tried to mount a late rally by pulling Holtby, but it just led to bumbling pucks and maybe one shot on net in the final seconds. The Rangers shut the Caps down offensively allowing them only 4 shots in the third period. No one is going to rally from behind with chances like that when they need it the most.

It was an incredibly tight series again for the Capitals. In fact, of the 14 games played, only one (a loss to the Rangers in game one 3-1) was decided by more than a goal. Live by the tight game, die by the tight game. The Caps collapse in game five could be the biggest reason they lost this series, but they were never out of it against the Rangers. It is hard to kill two kings in one post season.

Caps Notes:
  • The Caps have not won in this post season when they give up the first goal.
  • The Rangers are 5-0 in game sevens at MSG. Ruslan Fedotenko is now 6-0 in game sevens.
  • Jay Beagle missed his second straight game with a lower body injury. Jeff Halpern was again his replacement. 

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