- The Washington Times - Friday, April 15, 2011

Marco Sturm wanted the pressure. As the No. 1 seed, he said even with a lead in the series the onus was on the Capitals in Game 2 – because there’s a world of difference between being up two games to none and being tied with the Rangers.

But they weren’t playing like the pressure was on. Instead, the Caps played like favorites should, stomping on and frustrating New York in a 2-0 victory Friday night at Verizon Center that gave them a 2-0 lead in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals.

“We were happy to get the two wins at home. I think that’s very big for us – we got the confidence going,” Sturm said afterward. “They tried everything, and I’m glad we won.”

The Caps knew going into Game 2 that it would be a psychological boost to the Rangers to get a split in Washington and head back to Madison Square Garden for the next two – Sunday and Wednesday. For a while the Rangers carried the play and tested Michal Neuvirth, but they were unable to beat the poised young goalie making just his second Stanley Cup playoff start.


Then the Caps turned it on. Jason Chimera’s goal early in the second was the result of a perfectly placed pass from Marcus Johansson, and their second was a power-play blast by Jason Arnott – the 31st of his playoff career. It was a two-minute stretch that showed how scary they can be when playing smart in the offensive zone.

“That shows if everyone puts it together and we go really hard, things are gonna happen,” Sturm said. “It was just great to see, great to watch and we have to do it for 60 minutes.”

Meanwhile, the Rangers were visibly upset at themselves and conveyed the body language of a defeated team. Soon, New York was a defeated team and the Caps got exactly what they wanted out of two games at home.

“They couldn’t score and it’s hard,” Johansson said. “I think we made it hard for them and that’s always frustrating for the other team.”

The importance of a 2-0 series lead shouldn’t be overlooked in the context of history, either. Home teams that go up 2-0 have gone on to win the series 212 of 236 times it has happened.

But this Caps core is responsible for one of those 24 series losses after going up two games on the Penguins in 2009 before losing in seven. Many of the pieces from that team are gone, but those who remain learned a lesson from that.

“I think everyone in this room’s been in a position where we’ve been down or up and every kind of situation where we’ve come back, we’ve had a lead and we’ve blown it,” center Boyd Gordon said. “We’re not taking anything for granted. Game 3 we’re expecting the best game of the year from them.”

On Friday night, the Caps – who entered the series 1-5 in their past six home games under Bruce Boudreau – looked downright cozy in front of a rabid crowd that broke into “Lundqvist” chants in the second period. The third featured what Arnott called “lackadaisical” play as the Rangers spent significant time in the Caps’ zone, and coach Bruce Boudreau said his team was hanging on.

“I don’t think if we wanna be successful in the end that that can be done,” the Caps’ coach said.

But it never looked like the Rangers were in control, as Washington limited them to just six shots and few quality opportunities. Still, for a team that a year ago faltered in the playoffs – having an attitude of never being satisfied could be just right.

“We can enjoy it for 20 minutes and keep going, ’cause we gotta keep pushing,” Chimera said. “By no means is it done. When the hammer’s down, you just gotta keep going, ’cause they can easily steal two there and come back tied, so we gotta keep going.”