Dark Horse Rangers Upset Capitals Again To Take 2-0 Lead In Series

Martin AverySenior Writer IApril 18, 2009

WASHINGTON - APRIL 18: Ryan Callahan #24 of the New York Rangers scores at 7:44 of the first period against the Washington Capitals during Game Two of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal Round of the 2009 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Verizon Center on April 18, 2009 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The dark horse of the NHL playoffs stole another game from the Washington Capitals, as the New York Rangers won, 1-0, and now head home to Madison Square Garden leading the series, 2-0.

Many predicted the Rangers could upset the Capitals, but nobody expected them to win the first two games in Washington.

Henrik Lundqvist was brilliant stopping 35 shots to shutout Ovechkin and the Capitals. Washington out shot New York, 35 to 25.

It was Lundqvist's third career playoff shutout. The rookie Simeon Varlamov was solid in net for the Capitals but allowed one goal early in the first period that turned into the game-winner.

Sean Avery upstaged Alex Ovechkin, again, as Avery appeared to be everywhere, and Ovechkin was nowhere near the presence he was in game one of this series. Avery finished with three shots, three shots blocked, and four hits, while playing 18 minutes.

Ovechkin had six shots, seven blocked shots, three missed shots, five hits, and five giveaways in 22 minutes. The Capitals' superstar looked a little tired in the afternoon game.

The Rangers cut down on Ovechkin's ice time and the incredible number of shots he got in the first game of the series by taking fewer penalties. Ovechkin played almost half the first game and attempted close to 30 shots.

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The big news before game two was that the Caps' goaltender, Jose Theodore, got yanked and replaced by 20-year-old Varlamov. Caps' coach Bruce Boudreau hinted strongly that Jose Theodore would be in goal again, and Varlamov surprised many.

Varlamov was 4-0-1 during the regular season with a 2.37 GAA and .918 save percentage against the Atlanta Thrashers, Buffalo Sabres, and Tampa Bay Lightning, who all failed to make the playoffs.

Theodore took the blame for the first game, which the Rangers won, 4-3, despite being out shot considerably. Theodore had a tough night, allowing four goals on just 21 shots. 

The Avery line got the start again, and Gomez set the tone of the game. His feisty play was followed by the Rangers throughout the game as they threw themselves at the Capitals, blocked shots, hit hard, skated fast, and dominated the game.

The Rangers drew first blood halfway through the first period when Ryan Callahan scored, assisted by Markus Naslund and Brandon Dubinsky. It was Callahan's first playoff goal.

The Rangers had just one opportunity on the power play, as Alexander Semin was called for hooking.

Henrik Lundqvist, in goal again for the Rangers, was brilliant in the first period, stopping everything the Caps threw at him, including half a dozen pucks fired his way by Alexander Ovechkin.

Chris Drury returned for the Rangers after missing the last game of the regular season and the first game of the playoffs.

At the end of the first period, John Erskine and Sean Avery mixed it up, but there were no penalties.

The Caps out shot the Rangers, 13-6, in the first period. Avery and Dubinsky both had three hits for the Rangers and Ovechkin had three for the Caps. The teams were tied at seven hits apiece.

The Rangers started the second period on the power play as Kozlov got called for hooking at the end of the first period and was sent right back into the penalty box as soon as his first penalty was over.

Avery continued to battle Mike Greeen, as in the first game, but Green looked less interested in getting involved.

The Rangers closed the gap on shots on goal in the second period, out shooting the Caps two to one.

The Caps took their fourth penalty of the game when Green got called for hooking.

The Rangers got their first penalty when Ovechkin drew a penalty by taking a run at Avery. Michal Roszival responded by taking on Ovechkin. Lundqvist and the Rangers' penalty killers were perfect again.

Nik Antropov got caught for tripping with a minute remaining in the second period.

The third period started with a big shot by Ovechkin, stopped by Lundqvist, and a goalmouth scramble. Varlamov was strong against Gomez and Avery at the start of the period, too.

The Caps got their third power play when Scott Gomez got a rare penalty. Avery and Tortorella both told the refs it was a bogus penalty and the Capitals were diving.

Semin got called for roughing when he cross-checked Callahan in the neck after the two of them were battling. On the power play, the Rangers got some shots but no goals.

The Rangers won their second game in a row this year against Washington just as they did against New Jersey last year.

Post Script

Watching the game on the NHL network online, without play-by-play or colour commentary, while listening to the game on the Rangers and Washington radio networks, back and forth, with live statistical updates, and the Internet at your fingertips for more information about everything, is now my favourite way to follow hockey.

The camera work on the NHL network online is different than mainstream network television as the camera follows individual players for long periods of time instead of following the puck. It gives you a greater sense of how the game is played away from the puck and what different players are like.

I have to say that watching Avery is the most entertaining as he skates faster, finishes more hits, and gets involved in more scuffles than anybody else on the ice for either team. Dubinsky plays like Avery, the most, except he doesn't take as many shots.