Carl Hagelin scores, but two more chances get away
Related mediaGame 1: Capitals 3, Rangers 1 The best of John Tortorella Steve Zipay's Blue Notes Rangers' playoff schedule
WASHINGTON - Carl Hagelin scored the Rangers' only goal in their 3-1 loss to the Capitals in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series Thursday night at the Verizon Center.
But it was two more that Hagelin could have had that the Rangers lamented in the postgame dressing room.
After giving the Rangers a 1-0 lead 16:44 into the first period with his first career playoff goal, Hagelin skated in alone on Capitals goalie Braden Holtby early in the second with a chance for a shorthanded score.
For a few seconds, the capacity crowd of red-clad Capitals fans contemplated a two-goal Rangers advantage. But Hagelin shot high and couldn't get the puck past Holtby.
The Capitals later killed the Rangers' five-on-three, which many considered the turning point in the game. But Washington coach Adam Oates considered Holtby's stop of Hagelin as the larger moment.
"Big kill," Oates said. "I thought the breakaway that Holts stopped on Hagelin was the big one, though. Penalties . . . we killed them well. Every little thing matters."
Little things like hitting the crossbar, which Hagelin also did with 9:30 left in the third period and the Rangers trailing 3-1. If only . . .
"It's unfortunate," defenseman Ryan McDonagh said. "Hags hit the post. It could be [3-2] there."
Hagelin used his speed and grit to earn third star of the game honors. His goal was a wraparound that banged in off the skate of Captials defenseman John Erskine. McDonagh and Ryan Callahan assisted.
"He played well for us," defenseman Dan Girardi said of Hagelin, who started the game on a line with Callahan and Derek Stepan. "When he's moving his legs and taking you wide, he's at the top of his game. He had a great game for us. A lot of guys had some solid games out there. He led the way."
That may have been one of the Rangers' problems. The 5-11, 186-pound Hagelin is not supposed to lead the way. He was second on the team in shots with four. Rick Nash went scoreless on his eight shots. The Rangers outshot Washington 36-30, but Holtby outplayed Lundqvist.
"I have to be more solid on the ice there," Lundqvist said. "It was just those couple minutes there where they hurt us a little bit, a couple big plays for them. If you take away those five to 10 minutes, we played a pretty strong game."