Well, tonight's game was certainly much more to my liking. As expected, the game started out pretty slow, with the two teams feeling each other out. There was more shooting, and less shot blocking.
It took a while, but the Caps got on the board first. The Rangers turned over the puck on an attempted keep-in that went to Ward. He, Knuble, and Aucoin ran up ice, 3-on-2, culminating in a very pretty tic-tac-toe passing play to Knuble at the mouth of the goal. Lundqvist never had a chance on it, nor did the defenders.
It took almost five more minutes of back-and-forth for another goal to be scored. Chimmer raced into the zone when Lundqvist was handling it behind the net, got the puck, and threw it in front of the net. Hendy was there, and tried to score shooting backwards between his legs. He got it past the defender, and mostly past Lundqvist, but Lundy managed to bat it a bit sideways after it was past him. But Chimmer came back to clean up the garbage, putting it into the net.
It wasn't, by any stretch of the imagination, a pretty goal, but oh, how it made me happy. That was really the first time I felt like the Caps were going to win.
They gave back a goal with forty-three seconds left in the period, as Shultz tried to defend two guys without help. Unsurprisingly, they got it past Shultz and Holtby.
It was not the first really terrible giveaway in the period (actually, Green and Hamr had several really terrible giveaways in the game; not sure how many were in that period, but I think the two of them had the majority of the Caps giveaways for the game), but, thankfully, was the only one that led to a goal. The one good thing is that the Caps ended up with only four giveaways on the game, so they were very good tonight, by that metric.
The Caps also managed to keep play moving between the two ends of the ice, and generated very good chances when they did get to the other end. The power play was also very good; converting on one chance, but generating a lot of shots and zone time.
Anyway, the Caps went into the first break up a goal, and held onto the same score all the way through the second period. I was starting to wonder if we'd be treated to another scoreless period in the third, but the Rangers tied things up at the seven minute mark. Knuble had just gone into the box for a high-sticking call (which I was a little miffed at, because 1, it was obviously accidental, and 2, the Rangers got away with a high stick only half a minute earlier). The Rangers kept the puck in the zone the entire time from call to score, getting the goal after working the puck around efficiently and then getting the puck deflected from in front of the goal.
As I alluded earlier, the Caps got their one-goal margin restored several minutes later on the power play. Backstrom won the faceoff, following the call, cleanly back to OV. OV skated to the middle of the ice, allowing Brouwer to set up a screen, then wristed it into the top of the net.
From there, play went back and forth, but nobody else managed to find the back of the net, so the Caps skated off with the close victory.
So, a visiting team has won; therefore, the series has definitely started. Let's hope the Caps can defend the phone booth better than they did in the opening round.
Overall, this was one of the Caps better efforts of the playoffs, with good chances, tight defense, and a lot more attention to keeping possession of the puck.
I'm still a bit mystified by Hunter's ice time decisions. OV got thirteen and a half minutes; the only players with less were Knuble, Aucoin, Ward, Chimera, and Semin.
The good part of that is that I think OV is showing more defensive effort the last couple of games. The bad part is that the players with game-breaking potential aren't being given as much time as the grinders.
Beagle's a great story, and all, and I certainly admire his effort, but he should not be the forward leading in ice time.
I guess I shouldn't complain too much (it worked), but I can't see how this works out well for the team, long-term.
Well, we'll see Wednesday, when the teams return to DC, I suppose.