Thursday, April 23, 2009

NEW YORK | Another Sean Avery brain lock delivered the Washington Capitals what they needed to complete a two-goal rally and force overtime.

The response during a failed sixth power play - one shot - left a lot to be desired in the Caps’ locker room after a 2-1 loss Wednesday to the New York Rangers, leaving Washington one defeat from a stunning first-round elimination.

Avery’s high-sticking penalty came with 3:06 remaining, but the next two minutes produced nary a quality scoring chance. The problems that plagued the Caps in Games 1 and 2 - low-percentage shots from the blue line and not enough congestion in front of Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist - resurfaced.

“I couldn’t believe it when we ended up in the box again,” Lundqvist said. “But we took care of business. The guys were amazing in front of me. It’s a little scary - they have so many guys who can shoot the puck.”

Thing was, the Caps didn’t shoot. In going 0-for-6, they produced only 11 shots on goal.

“Obviously, too much passing and not enough going to the net,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “I’m not going to rip our power play. It’s been pretty phenomenal this year, and their penalty kill has been phenomenal. Maybe we passed because we didn’t have any shooting lanes.”

A primary subplot of the series was the Caps’ second-ranked power play against the Rangers’ top-ranked penalty kill.

Through four games, the Caps are 4-for-22 on the power play with 41 shots.

While Boudreau was hesitant to be critical of the unit before seeing the video, his players were more forthcoming.

“Sometimes we play well, and sometimes we try to be too cute,” Ovechkin said.

Said Nicklas Backstrom: “It’s hard to shoot when we don’t have anybody in front of the net. Shoot it from the blue line, and [Lundqvist is] going to save it if nobody is going to the net. Maybe we did pass too much, but we have to get better.”

Puck possession wasn’t a problem. On at least two power plays, the Caps kept it in New York’s zone for the entire two minutes. The Rangers’ quartet were unable to get off the ice, but the Caps couldn’t take advantage.

The Caps’ first power play was erased after 40 seconds when Alexander Semin took yet another offensive zone penalty. The final 18 seconds of the second power play were wiped out when Mike Green was whistled for hooking.

The only time the Caps used Lundqvist as a dartboard was late in the second period when they controlled play and posted six shots on goal. Lundqvist was dazzling, though, stopping a Green slap shot that was deflected by the Rangers’ Blair Betts.

After Ovechkin’s goal, Avery was sent off and Ovechkin whistled a wrist shot from the right circle that clanged off the post.

“It was a little bit frustrating, for sure,” Backstrom said. “[Lundqvist] played good in there, but we have to get our power play a little bit better than we have been doing this series.”

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