The Washington Capitals went from being the home team in the first round of the playoffs to starting on the road in the second round against the New York Rangers. As the visiting team, it’s your mission to get the opposing crowd to quiet to create some level of doubt in the home side if possible. Washington did that and much more as the stole Game 1 in New York, taking a 1-0 series lead. The Capitals came into Madison Square Garden and took most if not all of the air out of the building by the time the final horn sounded.
The Capitals have one of the best players in the league and he’s not shy about living up to that billing, Alexander Ovechkin made his presence known early in this one. Ovi scored the first goal of the game and the series in the first period on a power play. It was a filthy wrist shot, beating one of the league’s better goalies in Henry Lundqvist. He put that shot in a place that very few players in the league could and then he let Lundqvist know about it. The Rangers will be in for a long series if they don’t tighten up on Ovechkin, they can ill afford to give a player with his skill level too much space and he had more than enough when he fired that shot to the back of the net.
One of Washington’s strengths in the first round was not their prowess in power play opportunities, but their ability to successfully kill off opposing team’s power plays. They didn’t yield a single power play goal in the first round against the Islanders and that continued last night against the Rangers, Washington killed off all 14 power plays in that series. In Game 1 against the Rangers, the Capitals were able to kill off both of their power play chances as well.
The Rangers were thwarted for most of the game as they couldn’t solve Washington’s Braden Holtby, who has been stellar in this postseason. New York tied the game up in the third period on a deflection, Jesper Fast got his stick on Kevin Hayes’ shot. That goal with 4:39 left in the game didn’t rattle Holtby one bit, he stopped 31 of the 32 shots that were fired his way on the evening.
With the game tied at one, the next four minutes and 38 seconds were filled with desperation as both teams tried to break the tie. It seemed as if the game was headed for overtime, than the Capitals proved why they could be one of the more dangerous teams in the field. Nicklas Backstrom started the series of events that lead to a game winning goal from Joel Ward. Backstrom hit Islanders defenseman Dan Boyle into the boards, the hit forced Boyle to cough up the puck. Ovi took possession, the Rangers expected the officials to make a call on the Backstrom hit. That hesitation would cost New York as Ovi passed the puck to Ward who was right in front of the goal, he tapped the puck in with 1.3 seconds left on the clock.
After the officials looked at the replays, it was no surprise that it was ruled a goal and it gave the Capitals the Game 1 win. Washington has essentially stolen home ice at this point, it’s up to them to keep it. Game 2 is on Saturday at Madison Square Garden, it’ll be interesting to see if the Rangers have mentally moved on from this loss or if Washington can steal another game from them.