Rangers blank Caps, take commanding series lead - The Hockey News on Sports Illustrated

Rangers blank Caps, take commanding series lead

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WASHINGTON (AP) -- For all of the intrigue surrounding whether

the Washington Capitals would switch goalies -- they did, going

with a barely used rookie -- Alex Ovechkin summed up rather

simply why the New York Rangers won Game 2 of their first-round

playoff series.

"If you don't score," the NHL's goal leader the past two seasons

said, "you lose the game."

Henrik Lundqvist made 35 saves for his third career playoff

shutout, and Ryan Callahan spoiled Simeon Varlamov's surprising

NHL postseason debut by scoring on New York's second shot

Saturday, giving the Rangers a 1-0 victory over the Capitals.

The Rangers lead the best-of-seven series 2-0, with Game 3 in

New York on Monday.

"We're not trying to be pretty," said Rangers captain Chris

Drury, who played after sitting out Game 1. "We just want to

win. This time of year, that's all that matters."

Led by Ovechkin, and other high-scoring players such as Nicklas

Backstrom, Alexander Semin and Mike Green, the second-seeded

Capitals came into the series as the favored -- and flashier --

team. But the seventh-seeded Rangers, led by Lundqvist and

teammates who keep blocking shots, have been solid.

"They're going to make plays. They're going to get chances," New

York's Scott Gomez said. "But Lundqvist and the 'D' were

outstanding again."

Washington was shut out only three times in 82 regular-season

games -- and it hadn't happened since Jan. 9. The Rangers got in

the way of 29 shot attempts, 16 more blocks than the Capitals

had.

"Everyone's doing a great job sacrificing and trying to get in

the way of pucks and not letting them get to Hank as much as we

can," defenseman Wade Redden said. "It's contagious -- you see

other guys doing that, and you really try to do those little

things that end up being big at the end of the night."

Varlamov was quite good in what was only his sixth career NHL

start, but it turned out he had to be perfect in place of No. 1

goalie Jose Theodore, who allowed four goals on 21 shots in New

York's 4-3 win in Game 1. A first-round draft pick in 2006, the

20-year-old Varlamov began this season in the minors, but

Washington coach Bruce Boudreau opted to give him a chance

Saturday, after playing coy since Wednesday about who would be

Washington's goalie.

Varlamov acknowledged that he was nervous before the game,

though not as much as when his hands were shaking before his

first NHL game in December.

"I haven't seen him a lot, but he was confident," Rangers coach

John Tortorella said. "We've got to make it tough for him when

he comes to New York."

Boudreau wouldn't discuss why he made the switch -- nor would he

commit to a goalie for Monday.

Varlamov had his "Welcome to the Playoffs" moment about 5

minutes in, when Sean Avery plowed through the top of the

crease, and the goalie used his stick and pads to send the noted

agitator to the ice.

Not much later, Varlamov allowed his first postseason goal.

Green, who led NHL defensemen in goals and points, got caught up

in an attack, and when Ovechkin's cross-ice pass went between

two teammates, the Rangers had a 2-on-1 rush the other way.

Capitals defenseman Tom Poti was left pretty much all alone, and

Markus Naslund deked him before sliding a pass to Callahan. With

no one to beat but Varlamov, Callahan lifted a shot over the

goalie's glove to make it 1-0 a little more than 7 minutes into

the game.

Lundqvist, meanwhile, gave plenty of credit to his teammates for

getting in the way of the puck time and again, including a

half-dozen blocks off the stick of Ovechkin, who has yet to

score a goal in the series.

"That's their thing," said Capitals defenseman Brian Pothier,

who had five of his shot attempts strike a member of the

Rangers. "You get it by their first shot-blocker, and they

somehow have three more guys standing in front looking to knock

pucks down."

After Ovechkin did get off one open look, he watched as the puck

clipped the crossbar and sailed over the net with about 6

minutes remaining. He put a glove to his face and threw his head

back.

"You can say he's a great goalie, but we're good players, too,"

Ovechkin said, "and we have to score goals."

That certainly is true.

Washington has lost all four previous playoff series in which it

dropped the first two games; the Rangers are 10-1 after taking a

2-0 lead in a seven-game set.

"You tell the guys, 'Keep the faith.' One break in either game

and we could be up 2-0," a hoarse Boudreau said. "It's two

pretty even teams playing their hearts out -- and right now

they're up 2-0."

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