It was a major yawner in Sunrise, Florida on Saturday night as the Washington Capitals gave up a late fluky goal to the Panthers to lose, 1-0, in a meaningless contest. Michal Neuvirth started and went the distance making some nice saves along the way. The Caps rested Jason Arnott, Marco Sturm, and Mike Green as they prepare to face the New York Rangers in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, which start on Wednesday. The full schedule will be out Sunday evening.
The best thing to come out of this game is that it appears that the Capitals did not suffer any new injuries. Defenseman Karl Alzner did take a puck to the jaw late in period two but he came back and played a regular shift in the final stanza. The game featured a total lack of hitting and it seemed that both teams were interested in just getting this game overwith without any incidents.
The Rangers, in a must win situation, defeated the New Jersey Devils, 5-2, on Saturday afternoon and then had to go to the television and root for the Tampa Bay Lightning to defeat the Canes. They got their wish as the Bolts pumped in three first period goals on Cam Ward en route to a 6-2 victory. New York was 3-1 against the Capitals in the regualr season, including two blowout wins (7-0 and 6-0). Their other victory was in a shootout, 2-1, just before the All Star Break.
New York is coached by the abrasive John Tortorella, who won the Stanley Cup with Tampa in 2004, and his club plays physical hockey. The Rangers have one of the best goalies in the league in Henrik Lundqvist. This will be a tough series for the Caps to win but they did catch a break this week when New York’s Ryan Callahan fractured his ankle late in Monday night’s win over Boston. Callahan is a super player and always seems to play well against Washington. His loss hurts New York but the Rangers are a resilient group.
I’ll have more on the matchup with New York as the week progresses.
Notes: Neuvirth stopped 22 of 23 shots on Saturday and appears to be Caps Coach Bruce Boudreau’s choice to start game 1 against the Rangers…Tomas Vokoun stopped all 28 shots he faced to get the win for Florida…the Caps were shut out 11 times in 82 games this year but they were one of the best teams in the league in goals allowed (2.33 GAA, 4th in NHL), unlike in years past.