Capitals best Rangers in series opener

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Washington Capitals made the most of a strong second period in D.C. on Thursday night, scoring three times en-route to a 3-1 series-opening win over the New York Rangers at the Verizon Center.

The Rangers, second-best for much of the early running, found themselves ahead at the first intermission thanks to Carl Hagelin’s fortuitous wraparound goal. Hagelin’s shot beat goaltender Braden Holtby after striking the skate of Capitals’ defenseman John Erskine at the top of the crease, giving the Rangers the lead after a string of big stops by Henrik Lundqvist had preserved first-period parity for the visitors.

The Blueshirts’ PK went to work early in the second period, neutralising minor calls against Ryan McDonagh and Taylor Pyatt. The Capitals, though, would make the extra man count just a minute later, captain Alex Ovechkin knotting the scores on a rebound after Arran Asham had been penalised for a check to the head.

Consecutive penalties to Washington’s Martin Erat and Eric Fehr gave the Rangers an opportunity to wrestle momentum away from the home side during a 56-second 5-on-3. But Holtby stood tall and a made number of saves during the two-man advantage, staving off the Blueshirts push midway through the period.

The Rangers failure to make the most of the Capitals indiscipline would prove crucial. Marcus Johansson beat Lundqvist on a breakaway after a stretch pass through the middle by defenseman Steve Olesky found the Swede alone at the far blueline. Johansson split McDonagh and Dan Girardi before scoring glove-side on Lundqvist.

Before Tortorella’s team had a chance to respond, the Capitals stretched their advantage to 3-1 behind Jason Chimera’s goal. Chimera’s speculative shot from the left half-wall just 46 seconds after Johansson had restored the Caps lead found a hole in Lundqvist’s defences. Mathieu Perrault did a fine job in front, but as Lundqvist said to NHL.com during his post-game interview, it is one he would like back.

“I have to stop that. It was just those couple of minutes there [in the second period] where they hurt us a little bit, a couple of big plays for them. If you take those five to 10 minutes, we played a pretty strong game.”

The Rangers plugged away in search of a route back into the game. John Moore’s tight-angle effort was ruled no-goal after video review, while Hagelin fired a shot back off Holtby’s crossbar midway through the third. The Blueshirts did not get the bounce they needed and Washington hung on for an important Game 1 win.

“It’s going to be a battle every game, we just have to play the same way and we’ll get success,” said Ovechkin to NHL.com.

Contact the author – alex.nunn@prohockeynews.com

Follow Alex on Twitter – @aj_ranger
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