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Another taste of heartbreak for Capitals in Game 7 loss to Rangers

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Sports,NHL,Capitals,Brian McNally

Capitals get crushed in decisive Game 7

The heartbreak appears every spring as if on cue.

By the middle of the second period of Monday's decisive Eastern Conference first-round Game 7 between the Capitals and New York Rangers, it was apparent the game would take its place on the long list of devastating losses in the organization's 38-year history.

Arron Asham gave the Rangers the lead in the first period and Taylor Pyatt and Michael Del Zotto added tallies in the second period to stun the sellout crowd at Verizon Center. New York strangled Washington the rest of the way en route to an 5-0 victory.

It was another crushing Game 7 loss at home for the Caps, who are now 2-5 all-time in those situations. They once led this best-of-seven series 2-0. Instead, New York became the first team to win a road game in the series. The home team had been 6-0. The Rangers advanced to the Eastern Conference semifinals, where they will face the Boston Bruins.

New York struck first on a wild sequence in the first period. Caps defenseman Mike Green wiped out on a rush up ice just as he neared goalie Henrik Lundqvist's crease and tapped the puck back into the slot. Rookie forward Tom Wilson was there but whiffed on the puck.

That led to a rush the other way for the Rangers. Chris Kreider dropped a pass to Asham. With Caps defenseman Jack Hillen serving as a screen, Asham beat goalie Braden Holtby over the catching glove from the right faceoff circle to put his team ahead 1-0.

It wasn't as if the Caps went without chances in an oddly up-and-down first period. They fired 13 shots on goal on Lundqvist but couldn't find a way to push one home. His best early work may have been a skate save on defenseman John Carlson just 2:49 into the contest.

Star winger Alex Ovechkin was engaged from the start. He was credited with seven hits in the first period alone and at least three of them were crunching blows on New York defensemen John Moore, Steve Eminger, a former Washington teammate, and Ryan McDonagh -- his nemesis the past two playoff series.

The Caps, who complained bitterly about a penalty disparity in a 1-0 Game 6 loss in New York on Sunday, drew the first call of the game when Asham was busted for roughing forward Matt Hendricks. They couldn't score in the 1:18 left to them in the first period and that penalty carried over into the second for 42 seconds before the Rangers killed it off.

New York then took control of the game at 3:24 of the second period. Derek Dorsett, who so incensed the Caps with his attempted slew foot of Green in Game 6, drilled a shot off the crossbar and on the ensuing scramble Dorsett's rebound tip on goal caromed directly to Pyatt, who slammed the puck into the empty net. Just 2:10 later, the Rangers put the game away. Del Zotto's shot from the left wing clicked off Troy Brouwer's skate and through Holtby's pads to make it 3-0 and completely silence the crowd. Just 13 seconds into the third period, any hopes of a rally were extinguished when a John Erskine turnover led to a Ryan Callahan goal.

Meanwhile, Lundqvist was again on his game. Just 24 hours after a 1-0 shutout in Game 6, he finished with 35 saves. Washington had 26 shots after two periods alone. Holtby matched Lundqvist for most of this series. He had a 1-0 overtime shutout of his own in Game 2 on May 4 at Verizon Center. But he allowed 5 goals on 27 shots.

bmcnally@washingtonexaminer.com

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