NEW YORK | Alex Ovechkin had a spectacular third period, and Sean Avery did his best to help the Washington Capitals rally from a two-goal deficit.
But the Capitals couldn’t come through, and now they are on the cusp of postseason failure.
New York goaltender Henrik Lundqvist made 37 saves, and the seventh-seeded Rangers took a commanding lead in this Eastern Conference quarterfinal series with a 2-1 victory Wednesday night in Game 4 at Madison Square Garden. The second-seeded Caps are now down 3-1 in the series and need to win three straight to avoid a second straight early playoff exit.
Ovechkin cut the deficit to one goal early in the third period. He collected the puck at the top of his own zone and skated in one-on-two. He ripped a shot through Derek Morris legs and off the inside of the right post for his first goal of this series.
Sean Avery took a penalty for hitting Milan Jurcina with the knob of his stick midway through the final period, and the Caps spent the entire two minutes in the Rangers zone. Ovechkin rang a shot off the far post on a one-timer, but Washington couldnt score and Semin tripped Avery while on his knees to give New York a man advantage.
Then Avery took another penalty when he swung his stick and hit Brian Pothier in the face with 3:04 left, but again Washington could not take advantage.
The Caps survived an opening five minutes in which the Rangers carried the play and Washington didnt have a shot on net. New York ended up scoring the first goal of the game anyway thanks to a fluky bounce.
Brandon Dubinsky won a faceoff in the left circle back to defenseman Paul Mara, who fired a shot that was going to miss the net wide left by several feet. But the puck deflected off John Erskine and veered sharply to the right behind Varlamov at 13:55 of the opening period.
Washington had a pair of power plays in the first period, but both ended because of penalties by the Caps. Alexander Semin took his third offensive-zone penalty of the series to nullify the first one, and defenseman Mike Green was forced to hook Fredrik Sjostrom because the puck went past him at the right point and the speedy Rangers forward beat him to it and would have had a breakaway.
If there is a weakness in the Caps 20-year-old goaltenders game, it is his ability to handle the puck. That deficiency helped the Rangers collect their second goal.
Seconds after Varlamov put the puck off the side of his net when he tried to backhand it around the wall, Chris Drury lofted a wrist shot at him that he failed to handle. Lauri Korpikoski was able to nudge it back to Drury as he crashed the net, and the New York captain tucked a shot just under the crossbar at 2:23 of the second period.
Drury has been bothered by what is believed to be a hand or wrist injury this entire series. He missed Game 1 and had only two shifts in the third period of Game 3 because of it.
The Caps spent the rest of the period firing shots at Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist and had 19 in total. He made a fantastic save on a blistering shot from Semin from the top of the right circle, but many of the shots looked a lot like the ones from the perimeter in Games 1 and 2.