Posted by Dave Nichols | Saturday, April 18, 2009 | , , , | 0 comments »

Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

Washington Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau went to his bench Saturday, calling upon rookie backup goalie Simeon Varlamov to start Game Two in place of Jose Theodore, who admittedly played poorly in Game One.

Photo 2009 © Cheryl Nichols. All Rights Reserved.

The change mattered not, as the Caps offense took a holiday, playing sloppy and loose in the neutral zone, and fell to the New York Rangers 1-0, who now hold a two games to none lead in their best-of-seven first round series.

Washington once again out-shot the Rangers, 35-24, but most of the shots Henrik Lundqvist faced were from the perimeter, unscreened, or right into his chest.

In addition to the 35 shots on goal, the Caps had another 29 shots blocked. Washington had 24 turnovers compared to New York's seven.

As with Game One Wednesday, Washington came out buzzing in the first, and Lundqvist actually looked a little shaky early on, giving up a couple of rebounds and bouncing pucks. But there were no Caps in the area to follow up the original shot.

Lundqvist settled down and made no mistakes, though, and finished with his third career playoff shutout. Washington was only shut out three times this season.

There was some unevenness in the officiating for the second straight game, with the Rangers getting five power plays and Washington just three. But the Caps were their own worst enemies today.

New York's only goal of the game came as a result of the Caps trying to do too much on offense. Mike Green, who looked lost at times today, joined the rush on a 4-on-2, but a bad cross-ice pass by Alex Ovechkin sent the Rangers back the other way. Ovechkin had five turnovers on the day; Green had seven.

Winger Viktor Kozlov was back, but instead of retreating on defense, he tried to pinch in and keep the puck in play. Brandon Dubinsky beat Kozlov to the puck and tapped it ahead to a streaking Markus Naslund. Naslund carried the puck into the Caps' zone and held it long enough to get Varlamov to commit, then made a nice pass to Ryan Callahan, who redirected it behind the rookie goalie for the only tally of the game.

The best chance the Caps had to tie the game up late came from their MVP, Ovechkin. He beat Lundqvist with a wrist shot from the high slot, but the shot deflected off the crossbar and into the protective net above the glass behind the Rangers goal.

It's strange to think the Caps would lose a game giving up only one goal. But that's exactly the scenario that unfolded in the Verizon Center this afternoon.

The Capitals now travel to New York for Game Three Monday evening, losing the first two games in their own building. It's not where they wanted to be, but at this point they have to trust that their scoring touch will return, hopefully with the newly found defensive effort, to even this series up and bring it back to Washington.

07:44 Ryan Callahan (1), Wrist Shot. Assist: Naslund, Dubinsky



1. H. Lundqvist - NYR (Saves: 35, Save Pct: 1.000)
2. R. Callahan - NYR (Goals: 1, Assists: 0)
3. M. Naslund - NYR (Goals: 0, Assists: 1)

Defenseman Jeff Schultz was scratched due to an upper body injury. He is listed as day-to-day. Brian Pothier played in his place.

Chris Drury returned to the lineup for New York. Aaron Voros was a healthy scratch after playing less than four minutes in Game One.

Varlamov made 23 saves in his playoff debut.