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Caps' style has left them without much offense

Ruslan Fedotenko tries to control the puck against

Ruslan Fedotenko tries to control the puck against the Washington Capitals' Dennis Widerman in the first period. (April 28, 2012) Photo Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

Alex Ovechkin's name resounded off the walls and ceiling of Madison Square Garden. Well, his nickname did, anyway. Rangers fans taunted him with a chant of "Oh-Veeeee." They delighted in the fact that his full name never was called by the public address announcer for a goal or assist.

The Capitals superstar had no goals and was credited with only one shot in his team's 3-1 loss in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. From the Washington perspective, it was more "Oy vey!" than "Oh-Veeee." Then again, this is the team's new look.

Caps coach Dale Hunter has been complimented for bringing discipline to the once high-powered, freewheeling team after he replaced Bruce Boudreau on Nov. 28. And that discipline -- especially on defense -- helped them win a taut seven-game series against the defending champion Bruins, with each game decided by one goal and the finale decided in overtime.

The downside is that the Capitals' new style can produce a plodding game like Saturday's, in which the Capitals had only 18 shots and the Rangers 14. Washington had a good day for only 3.5 seconds, at the very end of the second period.

"We had our chances and we didn't bury them. We hit a few posts and their goalie was good," Hunter said.

Ovechkin said, "We know how to play against this team. I think in the first period we played pretty well, we just didn't have luck to score a goal. The second, that was a lucky goal in front of [goalie Braden] Holtby. We felt pretty good about ourselves going into the third. Unfortunately, we made mistakes and it cost us the game."

It's a bit of a bad cycle for the Capitals: They play a certain way now to cut down on mistakes. But because of the way they play, they have trouble overcoming whatever mistakes they do make.

"On offense, we just have to create more traffic and be able to find a rebound," Ovechkin said.

The question is, can they do that?

Ovechkin totaled a career-low 65 points this season, way down from a run of four 100- point seasons in a five-year span. Defenseman Mike Green (seven points in 32 games) is not the offensive force he used to be, either.

"I was not very impressed with our game," Green said after having been beaten by Artem Anisimov's wraparound in the second period and having been caught on an attempted change for Chris Kreider's deciding goal in the third. "We've got to be more aggressive," he said.

Jason Chimera, the only Capital to score a goal (on a beautiful angular, full-speed pass from Brooks Laich with 3.5 seconds left in the second), put it simply: "We've got to get in their zone to create more pressure. Any time you spend time in your zone, bad things happen."

Chimera also looked on the bright side, mindful that the Capitals, in both of their high-scoring and big-defense modes, have come back in playoff series. "We're good," he said. "They didn't win all four games today. We're not comfortable, we wanted to win the game, obviously. But we can come back."


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