Instant analysis of the Capitals’ 2-1 win over the New York Rangers Wednesday night at Verizon Center in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifnals:
How it happened: One night after Barry Trotz described him as having “boy strength,” 20-year-old rookie Andre Burakovsky flexed his biceps in a big way, scoring the first two playoff goals of his career to provide the Caps with all the offense they needed. Braden Holtby stopped 28 of 29 shots, including a penalty shot by Carl Hagelin with 11:59 remaining in regulation.
What it means: The Capitals have taken a commanding 3-1 lead in the series, which heads back to MadisonSquareGarden on Friday night for Game 5. If the Caps can close out the series in New York, they will face the winner of the Tampa Bay Lightning-Montreal Canadiens series. The Lightning hold a 3-0 lead in that series.
The Caps have never reached the Eastern Conference Finals since the arrival of Alex Ovechkin.
How the Rangers scored: New York scored first for the sixth time in nine playoff games when Derick Brassard netted his team-high fifth of the season on an odd-man rush with 6:12 gone in the second period. Brassard got a step in front of Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner, took a pass from Marty St. Louis and beat Braden Holtby high over his left shoulder. The goal was the Rangers’ first in five periods against Holtby, who saw his shutout streak end at 100 minutes, 5 seconds, dating back to Game 2.
How the Caps scored: With 3:31 remaining in the second period, Burakovsky found space in the high slot and despite right winger Troy Brouwer calling for a shot on his left, Burakovsky elected to shoot and beat Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist with a tracer over his right shoulder. It was Burakovsky’s first career playoff goal and it came on his third shot of the game and 11th of the playoffs.
On his first shift of the third period Burakovsky struck again just 24 seconds into the period. This time, Brouwer blocked a shot by New York defenseman Ryan McDonagh at the Rangers’ offensive blue line, allowing Burakovsky to beak in alone on Lundqvist. Burakovsky shielded the back-checking McDonagh and beat Lundqvist past his glove with a backhander.
Save of the game: The game’s most pivotal moment came with just under 12 minutes remaining in regulation when Holtby stoned Rangers left wing Carl Hagelin on a penalty shot. Hagelin was awarded the shot after Caps defenseman Mike Green hooked him from behind and took away a scoring chance on a clean breakaway. With a chance to tie the game, Hagelin weaved in on Holtby and went forehand to backhand. But Holtby stayed with him and snatched Hagelin’s backhander with his catching glove.
Hit of the game: In the first period, Tom Wilson plastered his old junior teammate, J.T. Miller into the glass, then had a few choice words for his good friend.
Fight night: Caps defenseman Tim Gleason had his left eye bloodied in a third-period fight with Tanner Glass, just a coupel seconds after Gleason was checked into the Caps’ goal post by James Sheppard.
They don’t know Jack: Despite his role in the Capitals’ turnaround this season, coach Barry Trotz was passed over in Jack Adams award voting for NHL Coach of the Year voting. His replacement in Nashville, Peter Laviolette, is a finalist, along with Rangers coach Alain Vigneault and Flames coach Bob Hartley. Members of the NHL Broadcasters’ Association vote for the Jack Adams.
What’s next: The Caps and Rangers will go back at it Friday night at 7:30 in Game 5 at Madison Square Garden.