Neil Best Newsday columnist Neil Best

Neil Best first worked at Newsday in 1982, then returned in 1985. His SportsWatch column debuted in 2005.

Henrik Lundqvist stared into space.

Then he tossed aside his water bottle.

Then he ripped the tape off his skates with one loud, dramatic yank after another -- a picture of frustration and anger for a usually even-tempered fellow.

This was the face of the Rangers in the wake of a deflating 2-1 loss to the Capitals Thursday night in Game 1 of their second-round series at Madison Square Garden.

It was the fifth time in six 2015 playoff games that the Rangers have played to a 2-1 final, but it was the first one they have lost.

The frustration came from the way it happened, on a goal by Joel Ward with 1.3 seconds left that was set up by the transcendent Alex Ovechkin.

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The anger came from what happened seconds earlier, when the Rangers believed the Capitals' Niklas Backstrom should have been penalized for running Dan Boyle into the boards, taking him out of the play.

To Lundqvist, it all was tied together in one big knot of hurt.

"It's a tough one; it really stinks," he said, then made it clear he was upset not only about the result but also what led up to it.

"Obviously, the last few seconds out there, I think we all just kind of stopped because Boyle went down and we lost our focus a little bit and gave up the last chance . . . I think whatever happens, we had to keep playing until the whistle. Maybe we didn't. It's a lesson for us."

Ryan McDonagh admitted he hesitated for a moment when Boyle went down, expecting a whistle. Not good.

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But let's not get too caught up in the particulars of the awful ending. There are larger concerns for the Rangers, who now find themselves facing a far more formidable challenge than the one the Penguins presented in round one.

So this might be a good time for them to find their scoring touch, which comes with an added degree of difficulty because of the line shuffling caused by the absence of injured wing Mats Zuccarello.

The Rangers have scored 12 goals in six games. Could be worse, but it needs to be better against a team that features Ovechkin, who scored the first goal Thursday night on a power play and who had six shots on goal.

Capitals coach Barry Trotz twice compared him to Mark Messier, which is either the ultimate compliment in the eyes of Rangers fans or heresy.

Ovi rubbed it in after his goal by aiming some trash talk at Lundqvist -- "All series long!" -- about which the goalie said: "Well, if you expect guys to be quiet on the ice, you haven't watched a hockey game. Obviously, guys are going to talk to one another. He always talks on the ice."

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McDonagh said he thought the Rangers handled Ovechkin well, for the most part. Defensive partner Dan Girardi said, "He had a couple of good looks, but he's one of the best players in the world. He's going to have some chances. It's just a matter of limiting them."

Especially if the Rangers' power play continues to sputter and Braden Holtby continues to match Lundqvist in goal.

Lundqvist described the winning goal this way: "I was kind of going to my right and thought the puck was going to come out on my right, and then when it came out, I was too late to come down."

The Rangers have played eight straight one-goal games in the playoffs dating to last spring.

That is a dangerous way to make a living in the postseason, more so now that they are playing a team with the sort of weapons the Capitals possess.

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The Rangers need a win Saturday. Scoring three or more goals might be a wise starting point.