There's an old saying, which I'm generally a bit skeptical about, but which does have some truth to it: "A playoff series hasn't started until a visiting team wins". By that metric, the series between the Caps and Rangers still hasn't started, as the Caps lost, 3-2 today at MSG.
I missed the first period, unfortunately, thanks to an unplanned nap (becoming a bed for my daughter didn't help) and not checking to make sure the game was going to be on Comcast Sports Net.
The second period seemed to be where the refs decided that the Caps shouldn't win, calling four penalties (three of which would be called weak even in the regular season, let alone in the playoffs) on the Caps compared to none on the Rangers. The penalty kill did a nice job, though, stopping three of the four, including the nine seconds of 5-on-3 (which came on top of a first-period 5-on-3 for almost 90 seconds). But the continuous penalties definitely kept Washington from building up any attacking momentum. They were still able to score one of their own without a power play (despite two non-calls each less than ten seconds before the score that were much more blatant than anything the Caps were called for) on a nice deflection by OV (extremely nice if you account for it being backhanded, and him having a very heavily curved stick). The Caps did get one big break as a puck entered their net right at the end of the period, but was ruled to have crossed a tenth of a second after the expiration (although I'm still annoyed that they didn't consider calling interference as the Ranger in the crease kept Neuvy from being able to get across to try to stop it).
The third period was not a good one for Carlson. First, he blew a coverage that allowed Vinny Prospal to shoot a close-range deflection past Neuvy (OV was also in the neighborhood) to put the Rangers ahead a second time. Then, after the Caps managed to tie things up on the power play, he took a matching roughing call to put the teams at 4-on-4. I thought going 4-on-4 would be good for the Caps, but I remembered shortly before the Rangers scored with two minutes left that Carlson is the second-most-important player on the Caps at 4-on-4 (Green being the first).
One thing that definitely hurt was that the Caps did terrible on face-offs for the night. They won only 43% on the night, and it actually felt worse than that (maybe they did better in the first? Or maybe I just didn't notice too many of their wins). Gordo was the only one positive on the night, and he won two-thirds of his. Oh, and Backstrom was even. The real culprits were MarJo, who won 40% again, and Arnott, who won 21%. Ouch. On second thought, the total difference was ten face-offs, and Arnott lost eleven more than he won, so he was more than the total difference. Double ouch.
Neuvy had quite a good night, despite the three goals allowed. One of those, as I alluded to earlier, was a player left alone ten feet from the net, and the final one was initially stopped, but the rebound deflected off the back of the defenseman (Alzner, I think) and over Neuvy's shoulder. Very bad luck on that last one.
So the team has a couple of days to work on things, and try to get a split of the MSG games on Wednesday. Let's hope Boudreau can come up with something (although I should point out that that sort of thing isn't his forte, so I'm not particularly optimistic about that part).