No one said this would be easy.

The Washington Capitals finished first in the Eastern Conference.  The New York Rangers barely qualified for the eighth seed. But as is common in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, you can throw the records out the door.

Most prognosticators, including national media, expect this first round series to be a tooth and nail affair, with the winner escaping by the narrowist of margins.  Wednesday night, the Caps took first advantage, securing a 2-1 overtime win and taking a 1-0 series lead over a stunned Rangers squad.

Jason Arnott colllected a lazy clearing attempt with 1:36 left in overtime by Rangers defenseman Marc Staal and hit Alexander Semin, standing alone in the slot.  Semin one-timed the puck past Henrik Lundqvist for the game winner, sending a capacity crowd out into the streets of Chinatown happy.

Semin, through a translator, was introspective on the game-winner: “I just saw the puck get intercepted. It’s just a situational play. I tried to get open and shoot as soon [as] possible because the defenseman was right there.”  There are very few in this game that can get off a shot as hard and as quick as Semin, and his goal last night was evidence of how much he can mean to this offense.

The game was a fierce battle, with both teams playing things close to the vest.  It was the perfect appetizer for the banquet that this series should turn out to be.

Neither team exerted their will over their opponent last night.  Most of the game was counter-punching and recovery.  The Rangers scored first when unheralded forward Matt Gilroy chipped a puck past Michal Neuvirth not even two minutes into the third period. It was a fluky, ugly goal, but it stood until 13:44, when Alex Ovechkin would not be denied, pounding and pounding until he stuffed a shot under Lundqvist to tie the game up.

The play went to review, but it was clear that the puck got underneath the Rangers goalie and the goal stood.

The teams traded opportunities for the rest of the third and into the overtime frame.  And everything indicated the game would need a second extra period.

But with just over 18 minutes gone in overtime, the Caps got a good forecheck against the Rangers defense, and Staal tried to clear the puck up the right wing boards.  Arnott stepped in front of the loose puck and for a moment looked like he would shoot himself.  But Semin streaked into the slot, and Arnott gave him a perfect pass.  Semin blasted the shot past Lundqvist and jumped into the waiting arms of his teammates to celebrate the Game One victory.

Ovechkin was happy for his countryman after the game.  "We are all happy for Sasha [Semin] because last year he was little bit upset he didn’t score a goal and right now it’s very important for him to score a goal, step-up and show his leadership. It doesn’t matter who score right now, it’s all about winning and character and see how good this group is right now.”

The game-winner capped a productive night for the enigmatic winger.  Semin finished a plus-two on the evening with the game winning tally and an assist on Ovechkin's goal.

Michal Neuvirth was solid in net for the Caps.  He made a couple of nifty saves, but for the most part saw only outside shots from the Rangers.  The rookie made 24 saves in his first playoff win.  Lundqvist, the Rangers veteran keeper, saved 31 shots, including several terrific glove saves in the third period.

Game One was exactly what we expected: tight checking, low shot total, good defense, and counter-punching offense.  Both teams played pretty much the way they wanted to.  Sometimes, games this close are decided by a lucky bounce.  Sometimes, in overtime, a good player just doesn't complete their play.

This time, the Captials benefitted from a veteran play on a soft clearing attempt.  They might not be so lucky next time.  But it will be fun finding out.

CAPS NOTES: Mike Green played in his first game since suffering a concussion Feb. 25.  He played 26-plus minutes, finishing with four shots, one hit and four blocked shots.  He looked rusty at times, but was not limited in what coach Bruce Boudreau asked him to do.

“I thought his first period might have been as good as he has played in a playoff game," Boudreau said.  "I thought it was outstanding for a guy that hasn’t played in six weeks to come back in a game like that.”

The Capitals won 54% of their faceoffs tonight. Brooks Laich won a game-high 13 of his 18 faceoffs (72%)