Capitals beat Rangers for 2-game lead

Bryan McCabe #28 of the New York Rangers Bryan McCabe #28 of the New York Rangers holds off John Erskine #4 (L) and Marco Sturm #18 (R) of the Washington Capitals in Game Two. (April 15, 2011) Photo Credit: Getty Images

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WASHINGTON -- Rangers coach John Tortorella tried everything to fire up his offense Friday night. He moved Erik Christensen between Marian Gaborik and Vinny Prospal. He put Sean Avery in the lineup for energy. He double-shifted Gaborik.

Nothing worked, and once the Capitals took a two-goal lead early in the second period, they completely shut down the Blueshirts' attack.

Rookie Michal Neuvirth stopped 22 shots in the Capitals' 2-0 victory and put the Rangers in a troubling 2-0 hole in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference series. It now shifts to New York for the next two games, with Game 3 Sunday at Madison Square Garden.

"For most of the game, we played much better than the other night [a 2-1 overtime loss], but we got hurt by a surge tonight," Tortorella said. "Good teams do it. We're going to have to try to get one ourselves as we go to our building . . . I'm not upset with the team. By no means are we down. We need to get some momentum on our side."

That may be easier said than done.

Since 2006, the Rangers are 7-7 at home in the playoffs and have a 2-4 record in Game 3s, including a 4-0 loss to the Capitals in 2009.

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It is the 20th time the Rangers have trailed 2-0 in a series. They have come back just once -- against Montreal in 1996 to win in six games.

Even with a 6-1-1 finishing kick, the Rangers were 20-17-4 at home. Every other team in the playoffs had more wins in their friendly confines -- and so did five teams who missed the postseason: New Jersey, Carolina, Dallas, Calgary and St. Louis.

The Capitals had the fourth-best road record in the East at 23-15-3 and were 1-1 at the Garden during the regular season.

"We definitely played harder [than Game 1]," Rangers captain Chris Drury said. "I don't think anybody can argue that. There's no moral victories in the playoffs. We regroup and win one game in our building and we're right back in the series."

After a scoreless, physical first period in which the Rangers were the sharper team, the Caps took control early in the second period. After Matt Gilroy lost the puck to Brooks Laich behind the net, Marcus Johansson's pass set up Jason Chimera's one-timer at 2:11.

As the crowd erupted, the Caps mounted more pressure. When Ryan McDonagh dumped Boyd Gordon after the whistle in the crease, the Caps added to the lead. Mike Green's shot bounced off Gilroy's skate at an angle to Jason Arnott, who one-timed the puck past Henrik Lundqvist at 4:08.

"I'm not sure it's a penalty with all those other things going on around the net," Tortorella said. "We got an unfortunate bounce and Arnott buries that."

The Rangers had no shots in the second until 10:45, when Ruslan Fedotenko managed one. They couldn't regain the offensive thrust they had in the first and seemed to lose a step or two as the Caps started to outmuscle them, sensing another win.

Some of the better Rangers minutes came in the third period as the line of Brian Boyle, Avery and Brandon Prust created some chances with the forecheck. More of them came in the first period, when the Rangers led in shots 13-7. In the first 11 minutes, there were 20 hits, 12 by the Rangers.

But the Rangers could not finish. Two power plays, one in the first and one at the end of the second, were useless. They have scored one goal in the last 31 opportunities.

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"It's a tough game when you get behind, especially with the way they're playing right now," said Lundqvist, who had 16 saves. "They're very tight in their own end. It's tough for us to get the big chances. A lot can change. It starts with one win."

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