Caps ride momentum into games at New York
A short optional skate was all the Capitals needed Sunday morning at Kettler Iceplex.
They are the team up 2-0 on the New York Rangers, after all, in a first-round Stanley Cup playoff series. They are the team in control. Washington coach Adam Oates didn't even step onto the ice. The games are too intense and too frequent at this point to do much more than rest the day after a game and get ready for the next one.
"It's a long series. Every series is different," Caps forward Martin Erat told reporters Sunday. "We played well for two games, but now we go on the road and we have to prove we can win on the road, also."
Indeed, the organizational history isn't exactly encouraging even in series where Washington wins the first two games of the series. The Caps have done so nine times in 21 previous series and have a pedestrian 4-5 record in those series. They hope this time is different with Game 3 set for Monday night at Madison Square Garden.
"Obviously we're playing well right now," said center Jay Beagle, one of just two players who appeared in Saturday's game and also took part in the optional skate. "We're sticking to our structure and that's what we have to focus on going into New York. It's a tough building to play in. Their fans are going to be fired up."
Washington has built its series lead in part on special teams. The Rangers are 0-for-6 on the power play. The Caps, meanwhile, are 2-for-7 on their own power play and defenseman Mike Green ended Saturday's game with an overtime goal off a pass from teammate Mike Ribeiro.
At even strength, the games have been far more even. Washington dominated the first 15 minutes of Thursday's game, with 12 of the first 13 shots. But the Rangers have played well enough there to keep themselves in these games. The Caps allowed several golden chances to pass by Saturday -- in part thanks to New York goalie Henrik Lundqvist and in part to their own lack of finishing around the net.
Left wing Marcus Johansson found himself on the frustrating end of a couple of those, including one in the second period where he had the open net yawning and couldn't get a shot off fast enough. Instead he chunked it into Lundqvist lying on his stomach in the crease. Oates joked afterward that he leaned in to Johansson to offer some advice: "He's a pretty good goalie, eh? I wouldn't have scored on that one, either."
"I know that feeling. The whole crowd, you see his anxiety afterwards, 'What did I just do?' I'm just trying to lighten the moment a little bit because you're getting another one in a moment possibly," Oates said. "And it's hard because you're at home, 20,000 people just went, 'Uhhh,' right? He's feeling it and it's stress. At the end of the day, it's stress. ... Just trying to make him laugh, let it go."