NEW YORK (NHL/Lozo) — When the Rangers lose, it rarely has anything to do with a bevy of gaffes. The team rose to the top of the Eastern Conference this season on the strength of playing mistake-free hockey, “the right way,” as coach John Tortorella calls it.
On Monday night at Madison Square Garden, the Washington Capitals made the Rangers pay for doing things the wrong way.
The seventh-seeded Caps won Game 2 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal series with the Rangers 3-2, scoring all three goals directly off uncharacteristic errors, evening the best-of-seven series at 1-1.
“Can’t give things for free,” Tortorella said. “We gave away too many things for free tonight.”
The Rangers were a charitable organization on the Capitals’ first two goals, which came within five minutes of each other during the first period.
Defenseman Stu Bickel fumbled a puck at the attacking blue line and compounded the problem by making a cross-ice pass directly onto the tape of Caps forward Joel Ward. It resulted in a 3-on-2 rush that ended with Mike Knuble’s goal that made it 1-0 at 12:20.
Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist is a finalist for the Vezina Trophy, but he’s never been known for his stickhandling acumen. He rarely gets himself in trouble when he leaves his net to play the puck, but an error in judgment led directly to Jason Chimera’s goal.
Forward Matt Hendricks slid the puck into the zone along the right-wing wall. Lundqvist went behind the net, but the puck slowed and fell short of the trapezoid. Chimera got to the puck first and played it into the crease, creating a wild scramble that ended with Chimera banking the puck off the skate of Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh to make it 2-0.
“It just died in the corner,” Lundqvist said. “Then I was just on the line and he stopped it. Then it was just a big scramble. It’s just a bad break.”
“The first two goals were us beating ourselves,” Rangers forward Brad Richards said. “Whether it’s a fluke or giving an odd-man rush like that, that’s the game of mistakes we always talk about. We kept it close in the third. We just can’t take two penalties.”
Goals by Richards and Ryan Callahan over the second and third periods drew the Rangers into a 2-2 tie. The Rangers dodged a bullet when Brian Boyle was called for holding the stick, but they couldn’t kill a second straight power play when Richards was called for holding defenseman John Carlson.
Alex Ovechkin scored the winner off the ensuing faceoff with 7:27 remaining in regulation.
“I had my ice, the guy came in front of me, I have to keep my hands down,” Richards said. “It was more of a reactionary thing. I can’t take them. We just killed a big one, so we can’t take another one.”
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