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This may not be the last of Caps-Rangers

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This may not be the last of Caps-Rangers

The Capitals and Rangers played each other for the fifth and final time in the regular season Friday night, but something tells you these two teams have not seen the last of each other.

If, indeed, the Caps and Rangers meet for the fifth time in six years in the post-season, what can be learned from the Caps’ 3-2 loss Friday night at Verizon Center?

“If we would have had a better start, who knows how that game would have wound up?” said Capitals right wing T.J. Oshie, who scored his 19th goal of the season late in the second period to tie the score at 2-2.

“That second and third period we really got back to playing how we were playing when we were at our best. We haven’t been in a while.”

Capitals coach Barry Trotz was equally encouraged with his team’s performance, saying other than two “very preventable” Rangers goals, the Caps played a strong game against their Metro Division rivals.

“I thought we played pretty well, actually,” Trotz said. “I’ll take that game any day of the week.”

The Rangers’ first goal came after a Braden Holtby giveaway, which came during a Caps line change.

“In hindsight I should probably cover it up and take a whistle,” said Holtby, who lost for just the fourth time in regulation in his last 41 games (32-4-3).

The Rangers made it 2-0 on a power-play goal by Keith Yandle, but a dirty (and disputed) goal by Jay Beagle and a game-tying goal by T.J. Oshie sent the Caps and Rangers into the third period deadlocked at 2.

Just 17 seconds into the third period the Rangers took the lead when Ryan McDonagh intercepted an outlet pass from Dmitry Orlov and fed Derek Stepan, who ripped a shot off the shaft of Brooks Orpik’s stick and past Holtby for what proved to be the game winner.

Oshie was positioned along the right wall on the play and took the blame for not giving Orlov a better pass option.     

“I thought he had more time than he really did and I thought I could push their D-men out of the zone to give him more space,” Oshie said. “They did a good job forechecking him and making him move it early.

“While I was going out, McDonagh was going down and that’s my guy. He beat me and it kind of snowballed from there. I’d like to have that back. Mostly, it was on me.”

Trotz did not lay the blame on Orlov.

“We didn’t give our defenseman a whole lot of options there,” he said. “He put it off the wall, their defenseman kept it in and Stepan threw it at the net and bang, we’re down 3-2.”

The Rangers’ win was their fourth in five games. If the season ended today, the Caps would face the Penguins, and the Rangers would face the Islanders in Round 1 of the playoffs, with the winners of those two series facing each other in Round 2.  

“We came into a real tough building against a real strong team and we came out with the right mindset, competed real hard and did what we had to do to win the game,” Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. “Two teams going at it and battling real hard.”

And maybe not for the final time.

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John Tortorella has no answers, walks out of postgame press conference after Game 4

John Tortorella has no answers, walks out of postgame press conference after Game 4

In each of the first three games of the series, the Columbus Blue Jackets always had an answer for the Washington Capitals.

The Caps built a two-goal lead in each game and Columbus was able to battle back and tie it each time.

In Game 4 on Thursday, however. the Blue Jackets had no answer in a 4-1 loss to Washington and that includes head coach John Tortorella.

"We weren't good," Tortorella said to the media after the game. "There's no sense asking me things about the game. I'm telling you, we laid an egg. I'm not going to break it down for you. We sucked. We sucked."

Tortorella is known for having some fiery interactions with the media. By his standard, Thursday's postgame presser was fairly tame.

The Capitals may have won Game 3, but Columbus certainly looked like the better team for most of the night. That was not the case in Game 4 as Washington dominated from start to finish. That led to the contentious postgame presser.

"We laid an egg," Tortorella said. "That's all I have to say, guys. I'm sorry, I'm not going to break it down for you. Nothing went well for us. It's on us, we have to figure it out and we will."

Reporters continued to press the head coach until he finally walked out.

Before you laugh too hard at this, it is important to consider that this may be a calculated move by Tortorella.

Sure, there have been times in which he has lost his temper in the past, but these outbursts may be more premeditated than we think.

Consider this. After their worst game of the series, a game in which the Blue Jackets only scored once and saw a 2-0 series lead evaporate in two games at home, we're talking about the head coach. We're not talking about the loss or the performance of the players. Instead, we are talking about Tortorella walking out on reporters.

Even if Tortorella was not willing to give any answers on Thursday, he will need to find some soon. The series now shifts back to Washington for Game 5 on Saturday with all the momentum on the Caps' side.

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4 reasons the Caps beat the Blue Jackets in Game 4

4 reasons the Caps beat the Blue Jackets in Game 4

The Caps put together their best performance of the series Thursday in a 4-1 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets in Game 4 of their 2018 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs first-round series.

The win pulled Washington even with Columbus in the series 2-2.

Here's how the Caps got the big win.

4 Reasons why the Capitals beat the Blue Jackets in Game 4

1. Tom Wilson factors in the offense

Wilson’s hands are good for more than just punching.

He proved that again on Thursday as he scored the first goal for the second consecutive game. Chandler Stephenson and John Carlson provided the pressure on Sergei Bobrovsky. With Bobrovsky scrambling in the crease, Evgeny Kuznetsov passed the puck back to Wilson who fired the one-timer past the Columbus netminder.

In the first two games of the series, Wilson had no points and no shots. In the last two games, he has two goals and 13 shots on goal.

2. A great keep-in by John Carlson

We saw how dangerous it was when penalty killers fail to clear the puck in Game 1 when the Caps failed to clear in the third period leading to the game-tying power play goal.

In Game 4, the roles were reversed. Trying to kill off an Artemi Panarin penalty, Cam Atkinson attempted to clear the puck with the backhand. Carlson skillfully corralled the puck out of the air at the blue line to keep it in the zone.

The power play was able to reset and T.J. Oshie scored the rebound goal soon after.

3. Braden Holtby closes the door to finish the second period

After the Caps took the 2-0 lead, the Blue Jackets made a late push to try to pull one back.

In the last 10 minutes of the second period, Columbus had 13 shot attempts, five of which were not net. Several of those shots were high-quality opportunities, but Holtby came up with the big saves that the team was not getting earlier in the series.

His play ensured the Caps took the 2-0 lead to the locker room.

4. Alex Ovechkin extends the lead to three

Washington entered the third period up 2-0. In each of the first three games, the Caps held a two-goal lead and allowed the Blue Jackets to battle back and tie the score. Even with a two-goal lead, it still felt at the start of the third that the next goal would decide the game. If Columbus pulled within one and got the crowd back on their side, we have seen what that momentum can do for them.

This time, however, Ovechkin struck first. After a board battle behind the net, the puck trickled out to the faceoff circle. Ovechkin grabbed it and quickly snapped the puck past Bobrovsky before anyone could react.

The goal gave Washington their first three-goal lead of the series and shut the Blue Jackets’ comeback down before it could begin.

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