WASHINGTON (AP) — Playoffs or regular season, New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist has been absolutely perfect the past three times he has faced Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals.
So what if the Rangers were struggling under first-year coach Alain Vigneault? Lundqvist felt good about his team's chances Wednesday night, then backed that up with his 46th NHL shutout in New York's 2-0 victory over Washington.
"I felt like we came in here with a lot of confidence that we can beat them," the Swedish goalie said, "even though we've had a rough start."
It was his third shutout in a row against familiar postseason foe Washington, including Games 6 and 7 of the teams' first-round playoff series in May. New York and Washington have met in the playoffs four times in five years, splitting those series.
"The games against the Rangers are always tight," Capitals forward Brooks Laich said. "We knew that going in. We knew it wasn't going to be a shootout."
Lundqvist only needed to make 22 saves, thanks in part to 22 blocked shots by his teammates. By the end, Rangers fans in the crowd were chanting, "Hen-reek! Hen-reek!"
"Tonight Hank was on, and we didn't give them a whole lot," said Brad Richards, who assisted on goals by Ryan Callahan and John Moore less than two minutes apart in the second period.
One key sequence both teams pointed to came in the first period, when the Capitals had a 5-on-3 advantage for 55 seconds after hooking calls on Anton Stralman and Taylor Pyatt. One chance went awry when Ovechkin snapped his stick in two while trying to get off a shot. Another was wasted when some tic-tac-toe passing set up Joel Ward for a close-range, backdoor try, but he pushed the puck against the side of the net.
"We had an empty net on the 5-on-3. We didn't bury it," Capitals coach Adam Oates said. "It's a different ballgame if Wardo puts that in."
Vigneault chose to credit his goalie after the Rangers won for only the second time in six games this season. Their season-opening road swing still has three more stops.
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