Overtime had looked to be all but inevitable.
In the final seconds of regulation on Thursday night, Nicklas Backstrom hit Dan Boyle into the boards deep in the New York Rangers‘ zone. This hit allowed for Alex Ovechkin to collect the puck and take it behind the net. He tossed it in front to Joel Ward, who put it past Henrik Lundqvist to put the Washington Capitals up 2-1 with 1.3 seconds left to play. As the final buzzer sounded, the Capitals took a 1-game-to-0 lead over the Rangers in the second round series of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Five of the Rangers’ six playoff games so far have ended with a final 2-1 score. This was the first of those five that has ended in a loss.
It was a game between two teams who know each other all too well. The Capitals attacked with physicality, while the Rangers attacked with speed; the intensity is only going to escalate in the next few games. There were also countless scoring chances on both sides. The Rangers spent a good portion of the game in the Capitals’ zone, firing shot after shot at Braden Holtby, but Holtby stood tall in net. He stopped 31 of 32 shots on the night. Lundqvist saved 27 of 29.
Ovechkin opened the scoring with a power play goal at 18:13 in the first period. The puck rocketed into the top right corner of the net and immediately back out onto the ice. It was a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it goal; for a second, only Ovechkin and Lundqvist appeared to know it had even gone in.
Despite outshooting the Capitals throughout the entire game, the Rangers didn’t respond until late in the third period. Jesper Fast scored his first career playoff goal at 15:31 to tie the score at 1-1. Fast deflected a shot by Kevin Hayes in front of the net.
THREE STARS OF THE GAME:
LOOKING AHEAD/OF NOTE:
–Kevin Klein returned to the lineup, playing for the first time since March 11; he suffered a broken arm after blocking an Ovechkin slap shot during the regular season matchup. Klein led the team with six hits and had three shots on goal in Thursday’s loss.
-The Capitals’ penalty kill remains perfect in the postseason. They are currently 16-for-16.
The Capitals currently lead the series 1-0. Game Two is Saturday, May 2, at 12:30pm on NBCSN. The Rangers will host the Capitals at Madison Square Garden.