By Jay Greenberg, Special to CBC Sports
WASHINGTON -- Game 2 in a nutshell: The New York Rangers saw red when Karl Alzner's chip over the glass with 45 seconds left in a scoreless regulation game went uncalled, and defenceman Ryan McDonagh's eyes turned red after he was called in overtime for doing the same thing.
"I'm already onto Game 3," said the teary-eyed defenceman after Washington blue-liner Mike Green fired in the power-play winner
off the shank of Derek Stepan's stick eight minutes into overtime to give the Capitals a 1-0 victory
and a 2-0 series lead
But if you believe the clearly devastated McDonagh, you also might want to believe that the Rangers power play is close to a breakthrough that is going to save them.
"We're just too stagnant, almost paralyzed," said New York head coach John Tortorella.
The same series that last spring saw the Rangers score 15 goals and still win it by one goal in Game 7, has been frozen in time and thawed out for a reprise. No surprise there.
"I'll take the way we are playing five-on-five all day," said Capitals sniper Alex Ovechkin, another way of saying the winning team is prepared to wait all day for the loser to make the big mistake.
In this case, it was performed by McDonagh, who is drawing the prime responsibility of controlling Ovechkin.
By unofficial count, McDonagh had been on the ice for more than three consecutive minutes of playing time when he tried to bank the puck off the glass to Brian Boyle and put it up too high.
The Rangers now have lost nine of their last ten playoff games at Verizon Center over three series. But such is not the preferred method of escaping this rink with a win.
Special teams battle
In the battle of special teams Washington has two power-play goals -- one to tie Game 1 by Ovechkin and Saturday's to win Game 2 by Green.
The Rangers are ten-for-ten in frustration.
Helped Saturday by the return of two good depth players - Brian Boyle and Derek Dorsett - they received big time efforts by Rick Nash, who hit the post in a third period after a three-quarters-of-the ice rush, and Henrik Lundqvist (37 saves).
The Rangers also received the shaft on a sudden interpretation - "deflected, not shot or batted" said the league - that one never sees applies when a defenceman like Alzner chips the puck out of the rink, whether he had full possession or not.
But to say that decided the game would be to assume the Rangers would have generated more than just ongoing self doubt on a power play that has struggled most of the shortened season (15.7 per cent), pretty much as Brad Richards has struggled.
To get Nash some help, Tortorella moved his first-line winger to the left side with the much more effective Stepan and Ryan Callahan.
Nash made the move of the game - quite the compliment in any contest involving Ovechkin - by beating Martin Erat, then John Carlson before hitting the post, and Nash also made the defensive play of the contest when he got back to thwart an Ovechkin-Marcus Johansson 2-on-1.
But in recording a 24-shot shutout, most of the anxiety endured by Capitals goalie Braden Holtby was self-induced on a couple of puck-handling mistakes earlier in the game. The team that has carried more of the play has won both contests.
"It's a rough one, both teams played well enough," said New York goalie Henrik Lundqvist. "So far we have been losing the special teams game.
"That's what we talked about going into the series, and this is what has happened.
After having to kill five penalties in Game 1, the Rangers reminded themselves about staying out of the box against a Washington power play with a 26 per cent success rate during the regular season.
The Rangers did - Green won it on only the Caps' second power play of the day - but in Game 2 New York looked a lot more determined when it didn't have the puck than it looked confident during its possessions.
The Rangers had their own power-play opportunity in overtime when Steve Oleksy also was called for putting the puck over the glass, but their most promising look, by Derick Brassard, was blocked by Eric Fehr.
Lundqvist had to stop Ovechkin twice before Mike Ribeiro's look-off pass past a sliding Callahan set up Green with all the time in the world from 35 feet straight up the slot.
"I don't want Mike to try too hard to be a scorer during the games because we want him to have poise back there at a key moment," said Capitals coach Adam Oates after the eighth overtime winner - regular season and playoffs - of the defenceman's career. "You want guys out there who are calm and that is one of his gifts."
Man for man, the Capitals may not be clearly the better team, but as manifested on the power play, so far being the calmer one is winning it for them.
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