Rangers Almost Steal Game One By Tricking Capitals

24 April 2009: New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist (30) makes a save on shot by Washington Capitals left wing Alexander Semin (28) as defenseman Daniel Girardi (5) comes in on defense in the 2nd period in the fifth game of the Eastern Conference NHL quarterfinal playoff game at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. The Washington Capitals defeated the New York Rangers 4-0 in the Eastern Conference NHL quaterfinal playoff.

The New York Rangers tried to steal a game in Washington, last night.

Ultimately, it didn’t work, as they lost in overtime, but Rangers coach John Tortorella almost pulled it off.

Tortorella had the Rangers start off the first period and most of the second playing passive hockey. The defense didn’t pinch or get involved. The forwards didn’t do much hitting. The Rangers took scoring opportunities when they could find them, but there was very little urgency (and there were very few opportunities).

Tortorella seemed to be trying to keep the game scoreless for as long as possible, knowing that it might be tough to catch up if the Rangers went down, but also knowing that the Capitals might wake up should they go down.

So for most of two periods, the Rangers seemed happy to keep things scoreless.

And then, in the waning minutes of the second, Tortorella gave the Rangers the green light to go for it.

The defense was suddenly allowed to join the play. Forwards got a bit more physical. And finally, in the third period, the Rangers got a goal from a combination of forechecking forwards (Brandon Prust) and a defenseman joining the rush (Matt Gilroy).

With the goal in place, the Rangers went passive again, mostly trying to keep the Capitals off the board.

It almost worked. The Caps had some chances in the third, but the only one they were able to convert was an ugly-but-effective goal-line whack-in. The Caps would go on to win in overtime off of a beautiful Alexander Semin one-timer down low in the Rangers zone.

The Rangers now find themselves in need of a new plan. I’m not sure they have the skill to hold a 1-0 lead against a team like the Capitals. Tortorella is going to have to try and get more goals, meaning he’s going to have to let the Rangers open up their game sooner. The Rangers are going to need more than 15 to 20 minutes of offensive pressure to score more than a goal against a team like Washington, that is shockingly physical for the amount of skill and talent they possess.

But game one’s sneak attack was a bold experiment that almost paid off for the Rangers.

Now the Rangers need to play a real game against Washington.