UPDATE: The Caps trail the Rangers 1-0 after the second period.
The Rangers got the opening goal just 1:32 into the first period. A dump-and-chase by New York worked to perfection as Carl Hagelin chased the puck deep into the Caps' zone, skated behind the Washington net and send a nifty backhand pass to Brad Richards in the left circle. Richards wasted no time by one-timing the pass on net. Braden Holtby, who may have been screen by Marian Gaborik in front, had the puck go under his outstretched glove and into the net.
It looked like a shooting range at times in the second period, and the target was Henrik Lundqvist. Unfortunately for the Caps, they hit the mark every time as Lundqvist turned aside scoring chance after scoring chance by the desparate Capitals' offense.
Alex Semin had a great chance in tight on Lundqvist after a sweet touch pass by Nicklas Backstrom set him free. But Lundqvist was up to the task, sending the puck into the corner and sending Semin down to the ice.
A few minutes later Mike Knuble had a point-blank chance at the left post, but Lundqvist made the save with his right pad.
There was even a period of time where it looked like the Capitals had a power play in the Rangers' zone, but it was just tremendous pressure by Washington 5-on-5. Roman Hamrlik and Mike Green showed patience working the puck back and forth at the point, getting the Rangers' wingers out of position and then sending the puck on net. Troy Brouwer had several great chances in tight during that particular shift, but once again Lundqvist proved to be the final line of defense.
If the Washington Capitals are to reach their first Eastern Conference Final Series since 1998, they will have to do it the hard way: by defeating the top two seeds in the Eastern Conference, in Game 7s, on road ice.
The Caps will look to accomplish that feat on Saturday night as they play the New York Rangers in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals at Madison Square Garden. Face-off is set for shortly after 7:30 p.m. and the game can be seen nationwide on the NBC Sports Network. (To find the NBC Sports Network in your area, click here.)
Washington forced a Game 7 by winning Game 6, 2-1 Wednesday night at Verizon Center. Goals by Alexander Ovechkin and Jason Chimera proved to be the difference, while Braden Holtby recorded 30 saves in his seventh playoff victory.
Both teams have already gone through one Game 7 in this playoff year. The Caps defeated the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins, 2-1 in overtime at TD Garden on April 25, while the Rangers held off the Ottawa Senators by the same score one night later at Madison Square Garden.
Close games have become a trademark of this series (only Game 1, a 3-1 New York win, was settled by more than one goal), and there's every reason to expect the trend to continue Saturday night. Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist is fourth among playoff goalies with a .936 save percentage. Right behind him is Capitals netminder and new father Braden Holtby, who boasts a .935 percentage.
The low-scoring style has had an effect on the point totals for both teams' stars. Rangers center Brad Richards is his team's leading point scorer in these playoffs, with 10 points (five goals, five assists). One point behind him is teammate Marian Gaborik (four goals, five assists) and Ovechkin (five goals, four assists).
The winner of Game 7 will move on to play the New Jersey Devils in the Eastern Conference Finals. That series is likely to begin on Monday.