WASHINGTON — Henrik Lundqvist and Braden Holtby kicked, swiped, caught and otherwise kept getting in the way of the puck, matching each other save-for-save for a second shy of 68 minutes, until Mike Green scored the power-play goal in overtime that gave the Washington Capitals a sweep at home to open their playoff series against the New York Rangers.
Green nailed a one-timer from high in the slot on a feed from Mike Ribeiro precisely at the eight-minute mark of the extra period, Holtby made 24 saves for his first career playoff shutout, and the Capitals beat the Rangers 1-0 Saturday to take a 2-0 series lead in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
With Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh in the penalty box for delay of game, having lifted the puck over the glass in New York’s defensive zone, the Capitals took advantage of their first power play since the first period. Ribeiro faked a slap shot, and then pushed the puck to Green, who beat Lundqvist to the glove side.
Game 3 is Monday in New York.
Henrik Lundqvist made 37 saves for the Rangers. Holtby has saved 59 of 60 shots in the series, including 35 of 36 in Thursday’s 3-1 victory in Game 1.
A razor-thin margin in the playoffs between these teams is hardly surprising. Six of their seven games in last year’s postseason were decided by one goal, including a Rangers win that went to three overtimes. This is the third Rangers-Capitals series in three years, and five of those 14 games have required extra time to decide a winner.
The Capitals are more offensively minded this year under first-time coach Adam Oates, but the Rangers were able to mostly corral regular season goal-scoring leader Alex Ovechkin and the rest of Washington’s high-powered attack, tightening up the defense and taking fewer penalties than in Game 1.
Lundqvist had to work harder than Holtby, but both were in top form — and caught a few breaks as well. New York’s Anton Stralman hit the crossbar about four minutes into the game, and Derek Stepan was denied by Holtby’s blocker after the Rangers forced a turnover behind the Capitals’ net.
Washington’s best first-period chance came just after a Rangers’ penalty expired, when Joel Ward made a perfect lead pass to Mathieu Perreault at the crease. But Lundqvist reacted quickly, making a kick save.
Lundqvist got his shoulder in the way of a blast from Ovechkin early in the second period and was fortunate to make the save during a 4-on-4 sequence later in the period. The goalie was caught sprawled low when a pass from Ovechkin found Marcus Johansson by the crease, but the Swede put the puck right into Lundqvist’s stick instead of lifting it into the net.
Ryan Callahan had a wraparound chance and a follow-up stymied by Holtby early in the third period, and Rick Nash hit the post with 3:44 remaining in regulation, drawing a slashing call on Troy Brouwer along the way. The Capitals held firm during the rare power play — only the third for either team.
Washington was back on the penalty kill 1:51 into overtime, when Steve Oleksy was called for delay of game for lifting the puck over the glass from just inside the Capitals’ blue line. The Rangers failed to get a shot on goal during the advantage.
Then, at 7:09 of overtime, McDonagh committed the same error, putting the puck over the glass to give the Capitals’ power play — the best in the league — the chance it needed.
The Rangers were less undermanned than in Game 1, getting back forward Brian Boyle and welcoming Derek Dorsett for his New York debut. Boyle had been sidelined since April 16 with a right leg injury, while Dorsett broke his collarbone March 7 while playing for the Columbus Blue Jackets and was thought to be done for the season. He was sent to the Rangers last month at the trade deadline.
New York remained without defenseman Marc Staal, nursing a right eye injury, and forward Ryane Clowe, whose injury has not been disclosed.
Notes: Cs Chris Kreider and Kris Newbury were scratched to make room for Dorsett and Boyle. … Oates said he talked to his players about where to draw the line when trying to feed off the more-frenzied-than-usual home crowd during the playoffs. “What is that line? You know, and you want to take energy from the crowd, the excitement from the crowd, the playoffs, but you’ve got to also stay in control. If they’ve got five guys back, they’ve got five guys back. The crowd doesn’t help you with that. Appreciate the energy, feel good about yourself, but we’ve still got to get it in and go to forecheck.”
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