Rangers head coach John Tortorella has stated a few times that he thinks this series is closer than some believe and that his team has played well in a few areas, specifically with generating offense. That may have been true for Game One, but the Rangers had a lot of problems the next game and the truth is that they weren't very good last night either. They were able to keep the series alive with a 4-3 win but it was a very ugly win at that, because the Caps were the team that had controlled most of the five-on-five play and this is the second game in a row where this has happened.
That being said, being able to get the win last night could serve as a turning point for New York because they are capable of playing better and now have a chance to change the landscape of this series with another win. The Caps also brought a lot of problems on themselves by getting into penalty trouble in the first two periods and basically giving the Rangers chances to take over the game. Washington has done a great job of shutting down New York's power play in the first two games, but giving them six opportunities in the first two periods is just asking for trouble and the Rangers were able to make them pay, twice in fact.
It's a rare instance that the Rangers win the special teams battle, but that becomes somewhat easier to accomplish when they get 10 minutes of power play time. Taking this & the Caps series lead into consideration, it's very good that the Rangers didn't squander this win, as ugly as it was, because any chance of them pulling off a comeback would have gone down the drain if they did. After last night, I can see this series going either way. If the Rangers come out in regular season form, then I think this can go to seven games but it might be over quickly if their play at even strength is similar to how it was in the last two games.
Washington Capitals vs. New York Rangers Game Three
If this felt like you were watching a Ranger game from October 2011 then I don't blame you because that's essentially what it looked like for the first 40 minutes. The Rangers were very passive at even strength and seemed to let the Caps dictate the pace of play. Part of this is because they spent 1/3 of this time on the power play and got two goals out of it (one of which coming immediately after time expired) so they were more content with protecting their lead for most of this time. Regardless, this style of play didn't end well for them in the second period after the Caps were able to break down the Rangers defense and get a late goal to tie the game.
After trading goals again, the Rangers seemed to flip the switch in the third period and began to slowly take over the game in the later stages. They held the Caps to only one scoring chance in the final 10 minutes of play and scored the game-winning goal after catching Washington's top line in a long shift. They had this line trapped in their own zone for at least 30 seconds prior to the goal and were able to keep up the pressure after a great keep-in by Ryan McDonagh and it led to Derek Stepan beating Nicklas Backstrom to the front of the net to tip home a centering pass from Rick Nash. They also finished things off with a strong penalty kill at the end of the game where they allowed the Caps to maintain possession but they had all the shooting lanes clogged up and there wasn't much Washington could do to break it open other than keep passing and hope for a defensive breakdown.
If New York can play like they did in the third period for an entire 60 minutes, then I think this could be a very long series. They are capable of dominating the Caps territorially but haven't been able to do so in any of the three games, so we'll see how this shakes out.
Rangers Individual Scoring Chances
|4||Michael Del Zotto||12:43||2||6||4:19||2||0||0:00||0||0|
Best EV Forwards: Arron Asham & Rick Nash +1
Worst EV Forward: Carl Hagelin -4
Best EV Defenseman: Dan Girardi +1
Worst EV Defenseman: Michael Del Zotto -4
Dan Girardi & Ryan McDonagh were probably the Rangers best players last night. McDonagh not only had that key keep-in on Stepan's goal, but he also did a fine job at limiting how much offense the Caps top line could produce. Both him and Girardi kept Ovechkin line in check for most of the game and were able to frustrate him by breaking up plays in the neutral zone and forcing him to go wide on a lot of his rushes. There's only so much one can do to contain Ovechkin, but I think McDonagh & Girardi did a good job at it. The rest of the Rangers defense wasn't too good, though as both Del Zotto and Stralman were nightmares in their own zone.
Up front, Tortorella's line shuffling was in full force last night and the only unit that stayed together of the entire game were Nash, Stepan and Callahan. These three weren't great but had solid games compared to the rest of the team, Nash especially. The rest is kind of tough to sort out. Asham scored a goal on a quick-hitter from Derick Brassard but he didn't play much and Tortorell also used Brian Boyle & Taylor Pyatt on the top-two lines for parts of the game. Boyle had the Rangers opening goal but his defensive play was very poor and Brassard also ended up in the red despite having a three-point game. Hagelin also had a rough game and got bumped from the second line someitme during the third period.
Capitals Individual Scoring Chances
Best EV Forward: Eric Fehr +5
Worst EV Forward: Joel Ward -2
Best EV Defensemen: Karl Alzner & Steve Oleksy +3
Worst EV Defenseman: John Erskine -2
The Capitals first line all crated a fair bit of offense but the Rangers were able to neutralize them by keeping them pinned into their own zone for about the same amount of time. Like I said, it's tough to completely shut down Ovechkin but the Rangers contained him well and prevented this line from completely taking things over. However, the rest of the Caps forward corps didn't seem to have much trouble with creating offense. Ribeiro's line had a nice bounce-back game and the Caps third line crushed New York's depth players. Perreault, Chimera & Fehr all did considerable damage while playing little ice time and had a few great fore-checking shifts, one of which leading to Green's goal at the end of the second period.
After being Washington's best player on the ice in Game Two, John Carlson got roughed up a bit last night. He was on the ice for three of New York's goals and looked really slow in picking up Asham in front of the net on his goal. Mike Green also had a rough game defensively, particularly on Boyle's goal but he was able to make up for it at the other end by producing a fair bit of offense. Steve Oleksy also had a solid game but didn't play many minutes and Oates kept him away from New York's better forwards.
Head-to-head at Five-on-Five
McDonagh & Girardi's coverage of the Ovechkin line is well documented here as these two able to beat them to a draw or outchance them at even strength. Nash, Stepan & Callahan also fought Ovechkin's line to a stalemate and took advantage of the Ribeiro line whenever they were on the ice. They also got the better of their main defensive matchup against Carlson & Erskine. The one thing that sticks out as troubling here is how badly the Caps third line was able to create offense against Del Zotto & Moore. NYR's defensive depth has been an issue in all three games so far and it's a reason why they struggled territorially for most of last night's game.
|1||WSH||15:54||Backstrom - GOAL||22||15||62||6||27||30||19||10||20||4||74||70||5v5|
|1||NYR||7:11||Boyle - GOAL||16||22||36||4||5||30||26||83||42||38||52||70||5v5|
|2||NYR||18:37||Brassard - GOAL||16||22||36||4||5||30||19||20||61||74||70||5v4|
|2||WSH||2:41||Green - GOAL||16||15||14||4||17||30||85||16||25||27||52||70||5v5|
|3||NYR||17:07||Asham - GOAL||16||45||14||6||17||30||26||83||42||4||74||70||5v5|
|3||WSH||12:41||Beagle - GOAL||16||22||36||6||18||30||26||83||42||38||61||70||5v5|
|3||NYR||6:25||Stepan - GOAL||21||36||61||5||27||30||19||90||8||4||74||70||5v5|