Instant analysis of the Capitals’ 4-3 loss to the New York Rangers Sunday night in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals at Verizon Center:
How it happened: Despite a valiant comeback spurred by third-period goals from Evgeny Kuznetsov and Joel Ward and a two-minute power play in the final minutes, the Capitals could not survive a slow start and will head to New York for a decisive seventh game on Wednesday night. The Caps outshot the Rangers 45-28.
What it means: The Caps will be playing in a seventh game for the fifth straight time. It will also be their third straight Game 7 against the Rangers, who beat them in New York in 2012 and in Washington in 2013.
Play-by-play: Trailing 2-1 after two periods, the caps allowed the Rangers to take a 4-1 lead on early third-period goals by Rick Nash and Dan Boyle but staged a furipus comeback. Rookie Evgeny Kuznetsov scored his fifth goal of the playoffs with 7:40 gone in the third and Joel Ward made it 4-3 with his third goal of the playoffs with 9:27 remaining in regulation.
But Lundqvist withstood a barrage of shots in the final nine minutes, his biggest stop coming against Washington captain Alex Ovechkin from the high slot. Ovechkin slammed Ryan McDonagh into the boards after Lundqvist’s save but after heading to the dressing room, McDonagh returned.
Ovechkin failed to score a goal for the fourth straight game in the series. He hasn’t gone four games without a goal since December.
The Capitals had a two-minute power play in the final three minutes of play after Rangers left winger James Sheppard took a delay of game penalty, but even after pulling goaltender Braden Holtby for a sixth attacker, the Capitals could not get a puck past Lundqvist.
Chris Kreider scored the first goal of the night and fourth of the playoffs just 40 seconds into the game when center Derick Brassard hit him with a stretch pass. Kreider got a step on Washington defenseman Matt Niskanen, held him off and backhanded a shot over right shoulder of Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby. Rangers center Derek Stepan won a battle against Capitals forwards Andre Burakovsky and Jay Beagle along the defensive wall to free the puck for Brassard.
Both goaltenders needed to come up with big saves to keep the game tight in the first period, with Rangers netminder Henrik Lundqvist flashing out his right pad to stop back-to-back shots from left winger Jason Chimera and right winger Troy Brouwer, and Holtby turning away center Dominic Moore five times.
A roughing penalty on Brouwer with 4 seconds remaining in the first period gave the Rangers their second power play of the period and after a faceoff win by Stepan and a point blast by Brassard, Kreider slammed home the rebound with three-tenths of a second remaining to send the Rangers into the first intermission with a two-goal lead. The Rangers have outscored their playoff opponents 9-2 in the opening period.
Unfazed, the Capitals scored just 28 seconds into the second period to climb back into the game. Capitals rookie center Evgeny Kuznetsoz deflected a point shot by right winger Joel Ward into the chest of Lundqvist and when the puck squirted into the crease, Chimera pitch-forked it over the goal line for his third goal of the playoffs. Each team had power-play opportunities in the second period but could not convert as the Capitals outshot the Rangers 18-4 but managed just one goal.
MORE CAPITALS: Joel Ward cuts Capitals deficit to just one in Game 6