WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 13: Jason Chimera #25 of the Washington Capitals skates against the New York Rangers in Game One of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Verizon Center on April 13, 2011 in Washington, DC. The Capitals defeated the Rangers 2-1 in overtime. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
A year ago, there was panic in the District if Alex Ovechkin and Alex Semin didn't score goals. Without their offense, the Caps seemed to have little else to fall back on.
But this playoff run looks to be much different, as evidence by Friday night's 2-0 win over the Rangers in Game 2 of their best-of-seven series at the Verizon Center.
The Caps, ladies and gentlemen, have depth on offense, and -- perhaps more importantly -- a system to fall back on when times are tough.
On this night, Ovi and Sasha didn't score. But Jason Chimera and Jason Arnott did. Those are second- and third-line guys coming through in the clutch.
Chimera, in particular, has been stellar through the first two games of the series, earning praise from his coaches and teammates, alike.
"He's a hard-working kid. Real good in the dressing room with the guys. Goes out and plays hard every single night," Arnott said. "He's got a great set of hands and great wheels. Tonight proved it. He scored a big goal to get us going and get us over that hump."
That goal gave the Caps the lead early in the second period, and it couldn't have come at a better time. The Rangers had the better of the play in the first, and the Caps needed a spark. Chimera and the third line did just that.
Brooks Laich picked up a loose puck behind the Rangers' goal, fended off defenseman Matt Gilroy with one hand and swept the puck around the net with the other to Marcus Johansson in the left circle. The rookie quickly spotted Chimera in the middle and fed him with a pass that the winger whipped past Lundqvist before he could get set.
Less than two minutes later the Caps struck again, this time on the power play. Washington can thank the stick of Matt Gilroy, who placed it in the path of a Mike Green slapshot from the right circle. The puck deflected off Gilroy's twig to the left circle, where Jason Arnott stood all alone. He settled it down and fired it past a scrambling Lundqvist to make it 2-0.
That quick second-period outburst propelled the Caps to victory. After that, they used their much talked about "new" style of play to maintain that lead, shut down the Rangers' offense and hang on in the third period -- when the Blueshirts threw everything they had in the offensive zone -- for the win.
And it was the gritty work of the third line that made it all possible. Chimera and Laich did the board work, Johansson used his quick hands and vision, and Chimera was rewarded with the goal.
Chimera said that's all part of the job of the lower lines in the playoffs.
"You got to," Chimera said. "The first two lines get checked so tightly in the playoffs. ... You gotta pull through for your teammates. It seems like different guys do it every night. But it's just nice to contribute."
Chimera didn't just contribute with a goal. He also led the team with five shots and added five hits. Some might say he's heating up at the right time.
But coach Bruce Boudreau would say they're wrong.
"Heating up? It's playoff time," Boudreau said. "Sometimes through history there have been guys who have raised their level of play come playoff time. I thought he's had two really good games."
The series now shifts to Madison Square Garden, where the Rangers will try to use some home cooking to even the series. They've got their work cut out for them, though. They've gotten off to quick starts in most periods of the series so far, but haven't been able to solve the Caps' system.
Like the Caps of a year ago, the Rangers' big guns like Marion Gaborik and Vinny Prospal aren't scoring. And unlike the Caps so far this series, the rest of New York's forwards haven't been able to pick up the slack.
"By no means are we down," Rangers' coach John Tortorella said. "We need to get some momentum on our side. ... I'm not discouraged with the hockey club."
Take away those two minutes in the second period, and Tortorella might have a point.
"We got hurt by a surge tonight," he said. "Good teams do it. We’ll try to get one ourselves as we go to our building."