The Washington Capitals got goals from Jason Chimera and Jason Arnott, and Michal Neuvirth turned away all 22 New York Rangers shots en route to a 2-0 win in Game Two, propelling the Caps to a 2-0 First Round series lead.
The affair resumes Sunday at 3:00 pm at Madison Square Garden, the most famous arena in the world.
The Capitals fairly dominated Game Two, using speed, forechecking, physicality and game plan to keep the road-weary Rangers at bey. Through the Rangers outshot the Caps for the evening, they only challenged the Caps goal on a few occasions, and when they did, Neuvirth was up to the task.
It's not really fair to call Neuvirth a rookie anymore, though the 2010-11 season was his first full in the NHL. But he played like a veteran last night, cool and calm in the face of whatever pressure the Rangers could muster. He benefited once again from a defensive squad that blocked only one less shot than New York got through.
Neuvirth was exceptionally sharp in the first period, when the Rangers seemed to have a bit on momentum. “They had shots early in the game," Neuvirth said. "After [the] first period, I think they had like 13 shots. I feel pretty good about my game right now. After, I think we didn’t give up any big scoring chances, I think it was a solid team effort tonight.”
As is the case in series like this, the road team seemed to weary first, and after jumping out for 13 first period shots, New York managed just nine more and never really challenged in the latter stanzas, despite controlling most of the play in the third period.
It was then when the Caps defense really came to the aid of their netminder. It seemed like every time Marian Gaborik, Chris Drury or Sean Avery tried to ignite something, Karl Alzner, John Carlson or John Erskine was in the middle of the action, or laying down in front of a shot, or generally pushing Rangers forwards to the boards to harmlessly dump a puck they had no intentions of retrieving.
The Capitals received all their scoring in the second period and they made it stand up until the end.
Brooks Laich made a tremendous physical play behind New York's goal, brushing off Matt Gilroy one-handed and directing the puck out to Marcus Johansson, sitting at the top of the left wing circle. MoJo hit Jason Chimera, alone in the slot, for a one-timer to give the Caps a one-goal lead a little over two minutes into the second period.
Less than two minutes later, with Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh off for roughing, Mike Green stepped in from the point and wound up to take a big slap shot. The puck was deflected right to Arnott, who sent a shot past the outstretched Henrik Lundqvist (16 saves) for the insurance goal.
The rest was up to the defense, and they took care of business.
Erskine blocked three shots. Alzner blocked three. Green got in front of two, including laying out prone for one. Carlson was credited for one block and four hits. It was just a stifling, dominating performance by a group that has bought in wholesale to a new philosophy, proudly displaying the new-found dedication in the second season.
Rangers defenseman Marc Staal was complementary on the Caps defensive game plan. "They’re not giving us too much offensively. We’re not getting too many clear looks or clear chances."
Lundqvist agreed. "It’s a tough game when you get behind – especially the way they’re playing right now. They’re very tight in their own end. It’s tough for us to get the big chance."
“They’ve been buying in since the middle of December," coach Bruce Boudreau said after the game. "They just want to win. The important thing is that they get success. We’ve got a lot of guys who’ve won a lot of awards and that doesn’t mean anything to them now.”
Game Three in New York Sunday will be an opportunity to really put a stamp on this series. A win and New York is all but toast. Lose, and you give new life to a hard-working crew.
Let's see if these defensive-minded Capitals have the killer instinct that has escaped so many of their predecessors.
|Arnott give them his war face. (C.Nichols/Caps News Network)|
|Jason Chimera starts the scoring for Washington in 2-0 win. (C.Nichols/Caps News Network)|