Ovechkin, Johansson, Chimera score for Caps
They are seeing each other now for the fourth time in five years during the Stanley Cup playoffs. There are no real surprises between the Capitals and the Rangers anymore.
A few faces may have changed on both sides and Washington no longer plays an ultra-conservative style of hockey. But the play on the ice is no less intense. On Thursday night, the two teams opened yet another best-of-seven postseason series with the Caps taking a 3-1 victory over New York in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference first round series at Verizon Center.
Washington leads the series 1-0 with Game 2 set for 12:30 p.m. on Saturday afternoon in the District. Alex Ovechkin scored a power-play goal and Marcus Johansson and Jason Chimera also tallied.
The Caps, who were eliminated by the Rangers last spring in seven games in the second round, dominated the first period of this year's opener. They took 12 of the first 13 shots and kept possession in the offensive end for most of the 20 minutes, but couldn't dent star goalie Henrik Lundqvist's net. That became a problem late in the period when New York forward Carl Hagelin wrapped around the net and flung a puck off defenseman John Erskine's leg and past goalie Braden Holtby for a 1-0 lead.
Lundqvist was on his game. He stopped Washington forward Martin Erat on a semi-breakaway at 14:29 of the first and didn't allow a rebound. He fought off a hard shot from the point by defenseman Steve Oleksy that was tipped by Eric Fehr in front. And Lundqvist was lucky, too, on another semi-breakaway when Ovechkin slipped a shot off the near post.
The second period was nowhere near as one-sided. By the time it was over, New York actually had the lead in shots. Unfortunately for the Rangers, the Caps finally started burying their chances. Knowing New York's penchant for blocking shots, defenseman Mike Green intentionally shot wide on a power play and the rebound caromed out in front of the net. A charging Ovechkin slammed home the puck to tie the game at 1-1.
Later in the period, Johansson took a beautiful tape-to-tape pass from Oleksy, spun and took off for the goal. He slid a shot under Lundqvist's pads for the 2-1 lead. Just 46 seconds later -- while Johansson's goal was still being announced and the roof was coming off Verizon Center -- Chimera was repaid for a season's worth of bad luck. He spun and fired from the left half wall and with Mathieu Perreault providing a screen, the puck nestled into the back of the net. That made it 3-1. Chimera scored just three goals all season.
It was an eventful night for Oleksy, who later in the second period took a puck directly off the side of his face and had to skate to the bench and down the tunnel for repairs to a cut chin. He was back on the bench within minutes. The 27-year-old rookie, who earlier was drilled on a clean hit by New York forward Arron Asham, was playing in his first career playoff game.
A key moment in the second period came when Fehr was whistled for both interference and roughing penalties on the same play. Rangers forward Ryan Callahan was hit with a roughing call, too. But the end result was the Caps had to kill 56 seconds of a 5-on-3 penalty and then finish off a 5-on-4. They did exactly that to keep the game tied at 1-1, and 1:37 later, with the crowd still buzzing, Johansson scored his goal. Later in the third period, Hagelin drilled a shot off the crossbar as the game stayed 3-1. A later New York shot by defenseman John Moore was reviewed, but there was no conclusive evidence it crossed the line for a goal. Holtby finished with 35 saves.