Rangers blank Caps, take commanding series lead

WASHINGTON (AP) — For all of the intrigue surrounding whether
the Washington Capitals would switch goalies — they did, going
with a barely used rookie — Alex Ovechkin summed up rather
simply why the New York Rangers won Game 2 of their first-round
playoff series.

“If you don’t score,” the NHL’s goal leader the past two seasons
said, “you lose the game.”

Henrik Lundqvist made 35 saves for his third career playoff
shutout, and Ryan Callahan spoiled Simeon Varlamov’s surprising
NHL postseason debut by scoring on New York’s second shot
Saturday, giving the Rangers a 1-0 victory over the Capitals.

The Rangers lead the best-of-seven series 2-0, with Game 3 in
New York on Monday.

“We’re not trying to be pretty,” said Rangers captain Chris
Drury, who played after sitting out Game 1. “We just want to
win. This time of year, that’s all that matters.”

Led by Ovechkin, and other high-scoring players such as Nicklas
Backstrom, Alexander Semin and Mike Green, the second-seeded
Capitals came into the series as the favored — and flashier —
team. But the seventh-seeded Rangers, led by Lundqvist and
teammates who keep blocking shots, have been solid.

“They’re going to make plays. They’re going to get chances,” New
York’s Scott Gomez said. “But Lundqvist and the ‘D’ were
outstanding again.”

Washington was shut out only three times in 82 regular-season
games — and it hadn’t happened since Jan. 9. The Rangers got in
the way of 29 shot attempts, 16 more blocks than the Capitals

“Everyone’s doing a great job sacrificing and trying to get in
the way of pucks and not letting them get to Hank as much as we
can,” defenseman Wade Redden said. “It’s contagious — you see
other guys doing that, and you really try to do those little
things that end up being big at the end of the night.”

Varlamov was quite good in what was only his sixth career NHL
start, but it turned out he had to be perfect in place of No. 1
goalie Jose Theodore, who allowed four goals on 21 shots in New
York’s 4-3 win in Game 1. A first-round draft pick in 2006, the
20-year-old Varlamov began this season in the minors, but
Washington coach Bruce Boudreau opted to give him a chance
Saturday, after playing coy since Wednesday about who would be
Washington’s goalie.

Varlamov acknowledged that he was nervous before the game,
though not as much as when his hands were shaking before his
first NHL game in December.

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“I haven’t seen him a lot, but he was confident,” Rangers coach
John Tortorella said. “We’ve got to make it tough for him when
he comes to New York.”

Boudreau wouldn’t discuss why he made the switch — nor would he
commit to a goalie for Monday.

Varlamov had his “Welcome to the Playoffs” moment about 5
minutes in, when Sean Avery plowed through the top of the
crease, and the goalie used his stick and pads to send the noted
agitator to the ice.

Not much later, Varlamov allowed his first postseason goal.
Green, who led NHL defensemen in goals and points, got caught up
in an attack, and when Ovechkin’s cross-ice pass went between
two teammates, the Rangers had a 2-on-1 rush the other way.

Capitals defenseman Tom Poti was left pretty much all alone, and
Markus Naslund deked him before sliding a pass to Callahan. With
no one to beat but Varlamov, Callahan lifted a shot over the
goalie’s glove to make it 1-0 a little more than 7 minutes into
the game.

Lundqvist, meanwhile, gave plenty of credit to his teammates for
getting in the way of the puck time and again, including a
half-dozen blocks off the stick of Ovechkin, who has yet to
score a goal in the series.

“That’s their thing,” said Capitals defenseman Brian Pothier,
who had five of his shot attempts strike a member of the
Rangers. “You get it by their first shot-blocker, and they
somehow have three more guys standing in front looking to knock
pucks down.”

After Ovechkin did get off one open look, he watched as the puck
clipped the crossbar and sailed over the net with about 6
minutes remaining. He put a glove to his face and threw his head

“You can say he’s a great goalie, but we’re good players, too,”
Ovechkin said, “and we have to score goals.”

That certainly is true.

Washington has lost all four previous playoff series in which it
dropped the first two games; the Rangers are 10-1 after taking a
2-0 lead in a seven-game set.

“You tell the guys, ‘Keep the faith.’ One break in either game
and we could be up 2-0,” a hoarse Boudreau said. “It’s two
pretty even teams playing their hearts out — and right now
they’re up 2-0.”