Thursday, April 14, 2011, 9:56 p.m.
CAPITALS PAGE CAPITALS VIDEOS
By Ryan OHalloran
In their taut playoff opener against the New York Rangers Wednesday night, the Capitals won in overtime on Alexander Semins blister from the high slot, but put themselves in position by getting timely goaltending, playing soundly in their own end, creating turnovers in the neutral zone and negating their opponent's prime scoring chances.
Which brings the Capitals to their newest challenge: doing it again.
Every player is always up for the first playoff game because youve waited so long for it, but it becomes a battle of attrition and now you have to do it the next game and its consistency and doing the same thing over and over, Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said Thursday. The longer the series goes, the harder is it to play at your top level.
Well see how it goes Friday. Im sure theyll be better. Im hoping we can rise to the occasion.
The occasion is Fridays Game 2 (7:30 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet) between the eighth-seeded Rangers and top-seeded Capitals at Verizon Center.
For the Game 1 loser, the rematch is always about desperation, even though a 0-2 deficit certainly isnt insurmountable (see Caps-Rangers 2009 and Penguins-Caps 2009), but its better than the two other alternatives.
The series is going to get harder and harder every game and we know that, defenseman Scott Hannan said. We have to refocus. Its one win, but we have to win four and thats the game play.
To that end, the vibe in the Capitals locker room after 15 players including both goalies and eight skaters who played Wednesday participated in Thursday mornings optional practice stressed the need to improve on both the pluses and minuses of the Game 1 win.
I know that were a desperate hockey team, too, forward Matt Hendricks said. We want to take advantage of every chance we can.
The Capitals in general and center Jason Arnott in particular pounced on a rare Marc Staal miscue late in the first overtime to take the series lead. Staals clearing attempt was caught by Arnott, who fed to Semin for the game-winner.
Everybody associated with this series expects the same kind of breaks to decide the winner. Dont expect any track meets. Opportunistic plays like Arnott's will become huge turning points andor game-winners.
I think its going to stay the same, Hendricks said. Weve been in a lot of one-goal games the last two months. They match up well with us. Its going to be a dogfight.
Thursday was a day of rest for most of the Capitals' top forwards, but all but the healthy-but-resting Staal and Dan Girardi were present for the Rangers practice at Verizon Center.
New York went into adjustment mode with reconfigured forward lines that may not stay intact for Game 2.
Erik Christensen returned to centering the Marian Gaborik-Vinny Prospal line, dropping Artem Anisimov to the fourth line with Mats Zuccarello (or Sean Avery) and captain Chris Drury.
The Rangers held a 1-0 lead into the final seven minutes, but their scoring chances were minimal.
We need to get more scoring chances; well figure it out, coach John Tortorella told reporters. We need to create more offense.
Christensen totaled 27 points in 63 games this season but played less than 11 minutes in Game 1.
Were not putting Erik in there for his defensive purposes, Tortorella said. Hes a skilled guy. Hes given us good minutes at certain times. Were not idiots, we need to spend more time in their end zone.
Christensen will be responsible for trying to get Gaborik going. Gaborik was stoned by Michal Neuvirth in the second period and had four of his eight shot attempts blocked.
You have to be aware of every time hes on the ice, and if you dont, hell get that great chance he had in front of the net, Boudreau said. We had a miscue for one second, and the next thing you know, hes right there.
In recent playoff years, the Capitals have been unable to handle the rare playoff prosperity (a 1-0 lead over Philadelphia in 2008, a 2-0 lead over Pittsburgh in 2009 and a 3-1 lead over Montreal last year). This time, they want to continue to show this edition is different.
Contact OHalloran at email@example.com.