Caps fall to New York in Game One

748321.png

Caps fall to New York in Game One

NEW YORK -- If the Capitals are going to find a way to beat the Rangers for a third time in four years, Braden Holtby is going to need to learn to silence Neew York's offense and their rowdy fans.

Holtby allowed goals to rookie Chris Kreider and veteran Brad Richards 90 seconds apart in the third period, then had to listen to derisive chants from the sellout crowd at Madison Square Garden the rest of the game as the Capitals dropped their series opener 3-1 Saturday afternoon .

The series resumes with Game 2 Monday night in Manhattan.

And if the Caps hope to even their best-of-seven series, they'll need better play from their 22-year-old rookie goaltender, who allowed three goals on 14 shots, especially with Henrik Lundqvist imitating a Venus flytrap at the other end of the ice.

The seventh-seeded Caps seemed to have the top-seeded Rangers right where they wanted them through two periods -- locked in a defensive battle of chip and chase.

But Kreider changed all that 7 minutes into the third period with one wicked blast of a slapshot.

Kreider took a pass from Derek Stepan and got a stride ahead of Mike Green before ripping a shot under the left catching glove of Holtby, who came out to challenge and had a clear view of the shot.

Ninety seconds later Jaso Chimera and Karl Alzner lost battles along the wall and Richards made them pay, beating Holtby between the pads for a 3-1 lead on just 12 shots

Nicklas Backstrom joked on Friday that the series between the Caps and Rangers would amount to two teams out there just blocking shots.

It sure looked that way after 20 minutes on Saturday.

The Capitals withstood an early thrust of offense from the Rangers at the start of the game before finding their skatng legs. Still, the two teams combined for just 10 shots in the opening period despite each team having a pair of power plays.

The Rangers broke the ice 12:38 into the second period when Artem Anisonov outmuscled Mike Green behind the net and scored his first goal of the playoffs on a wraparound. It looked like the Rangers might carry that lead int the third period, but Jason Chimera finished off a nice 3-on-2 rush by tapping a perfect pass from Brooks Laich through the 5-hole of Henrik Lundqvist.

Any life that gave the Capitals evaporated with Kreider's goal 7 minutes into the third period.

Quick Links

The Caps are hopeful Matt Niskanen avoided serious injury

The Caps are hopeful Matt Niskanen avoided serious injury

PHILADELPHIA—The Capitals are hoping the injury suffered by Matt Niskanen during Wednesday’s 4-1 win over the Flyers is not serious.

The veteran defenseman’s left leg appeared to buckle after a leg-on-leg collision with rugged Flyers defenseman Radko Gudas in the second period. You can see the replay in the video above. Niskanen returned for one shift but exited the game shortly thereafter and did not return.

As he walked out of the visitors’ dressing room following the game, he appeared to have a slight hitch in his step.  

“We don’t think it’s too serious,” Coach Barry Trotz said. “We’ll look at him tomorrow.”

Trotz added: “When he first was diagnosed by our trainers it was more precautionary. We’ll get our doctors to look at that, and we’ll see where we are tomorrow.”

RELATED: Two disallowed goals for Flyers help Caps earn first win post-bye

Trotz said he did not take issue with the play that resulted in the injury. Gudas was pursuing Marcus Johansson in the corner when he appeared to turn into Niskanen, clipping Niskanen's leg. Niskanen was also bumped from behind by Wayne Simmonds on the play.

“No, he just got tangled up on a couple of guys,” Trotz said. “I haven’t looked at it that closely, on their defenseman [Gudas] coming down. I think [Niskanen] got wedged between two guys.”

Niskanen, 30, plays a vital role for the Capitals, skating an average 22:26 per game, including important minutes on the power play and penalty kill.

If his latest injury causes him to miss any time, the Capitals will not need to make a move as they have six healthy defensemen on the roster. The team could, however, call up veteran Tom Gilbert, whom they acquired last week via trade as injury insurance.  

Niskanen missed one game earlier this season due to an upper-body injury.

MORE CAPITALS: Breakdown of the Flyers two no-goals vs. Capitals

Quick Links

Two disallowed goals sink Flyers as Caps earn first win after the bye

Two disallowed goals sink Flyers as Caps earn first win after the bye

Final score: Washington Capitals 4, Philadelphia Flyers 1

How it happened: The Flyers scored just 23 seconds in, but Barry Trotz came up with a heads up challenge for goalie interference that revealed that Dale Weise pushed Braden Holtby. In the second period, the Flyers had what they thought was their first goal, but replay showed the shot hit off the crossbar and never crossed the line. After two disallowed goals, the Flyers could not recover.

Washington responded to the lifeline in the first period with goals from Nicklas Backstrom and a laser from Evgeny Kuznetsov. Brayden Schenn pulled Philadelphia back within one in the second period, but Kuznetsov's second of the night put the Caps back in control. T.J. Oshie would add an insurance tally in the third.

What it means: The Caps earned their first win after the bye week and seventh in their last nine game. Washington now sits three points ahead of the Minnesota Wild for the top record in the NHL and the Metropolitan Division by five.

Goals

Capitals goal: Nicklas Backstrom from T.J. Oshie and Alex Ovechkin at 6:33 in the first. Oshie and Ovechkin teamed up for a fantastic forecheck effort which forced the puck to the boards. Backstrom eventually emerged from the scrum with it and wristed a knuckler into the top shelf. Caps 1, Flyers 0

Capitals goal: Evgeny Kuznetsov (power play) from Justin Williams and John Carlson at 16:28 in the first. With the Caps set up on the power play, Kuznetsov just squared up and wristed a lazer into the top shelf. No one saw the puck go in but Kuznetsov and the ref. Caps 2, Flyers 0

Flyers goal: Brayden Schenn from Brandon Manning at 6:54 in the second. The Caps failed to clear the puck out of the zone allowing Manning to collect. He fired the slap shot and Schenn got his stick on the puck for the deflection. Caps 2, Flyers 1

Capitals goal: Evgeny Kuznetsov from Justin Williams and Taylor Chorney at 17:59 in the second. Taylor Chorney was quick to get the puck up ice to launch the Caps on the counter attack. Williams carried it into the offensive zone and Kuznetsov tried the quick pass, but the puck hit off of defenseman Radko Gudas’ stick and deflected into the net. Caps 3, Flyers 1

Capitals goal: T.J. Oshie from Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom at 15:23 in the third. A fantastic pass by Ovechkin sparked the rush. Oshie returned the favor to Ovechkin who nearly beat Neuvirth for the goal with the deke. The puck trickled its way to the goal line and Oshie tapped it in for insurance. Caps 4, Flyers 1

3 Stars

1. Evgeny Kuznetsov: Kuznetsov can be a hit or miss player sometimes. He was an absolute hit on Wednesday. Kuznetsov's first-period goal was an incredible shot lasered into the top shelf. It was in and out so fast only he and the ref knew it was in. When a player is playing well, he is often rewarded with good puck luck as well and that was true of Kuznetsov as his second goal came on a pass that was deflected through the five-hole of Michal Neuvirth by the stick of Gudas. And that's just what you see on the scoresheet. Kuzy's hands were on display all night as he deked and dangled all over the ice.

2. T.J. Oshie: Oshie scored the insurance tally in the third period, but Oshie gets the second star for his effort on the forecheck, not the offense. The top line was all over the Flyers every time they were on the ice to the point that Philadelphia struggled to exit their own zone. The Caps' first goal of the game came as a result of the turnover generated by Oshie's work on the forecheck.

3. Taylor Chorney: Playing in his first game since Jan. 26, Chorney did not look like he was working through any rust. He had a few offensive opportunities as well and his quick reaction in the second period sparked a counter attack that led to Kuznetsov's second goal.

Look ahead: The Caps finally return home to host Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers on Friday. Then, it’s another quick turnaround on Saturday as Washington will play the Predators in Nashville on Saturday at 5 p.m., 22 hours after the start of Friday’s game.

Tell us what you think: Philadelphia thought they had taken the lead 23 seconds into the game, but Trotz's challenge restored the score to 0-0. How important was that challenge for the Caps and how much did it determine the outcome of the game?