After a total of five goals were scored in the first two games of the series between the Washington Capitals and the New York Rangers, each team came out with a vengeance in Game 3. A total of seven goals were scored, as the Rangers notched their first victory of the series by a final of 4-3.
Each goalie didn’t look as sharp as they had looked in previous games, but each made key saves at important times throughout the contest.
After Alexander Ovechkin drew a high-sticking penalty with 1:55 left in the third period, the Capitals were unable to capitalize on their advantage. Henrik Lundqvist made some quality saves, but Washington didn’t take full advantage of their opportunity.
In order for the Capitals to win Game 4 at the Garden, they will need to do the following:
Shoot the Puck
It sounds simple and obvious to the game of hockey, considering about 100 percent of the pucks you don’t shoot on net don’t find the twine. The Capitals have had the upper hand in total shots in the series thus far, but have made an extra pass when the opportunity was there to potentially score.
If there is an opportunity, the Capitals cannot try and get too fancy. They need to put as many pucks on net as possible in order to take a 3-1 lead back to the Verizon Center.
Crash the Net
Taking a lot of shots may not always result in a lot of goals, but the chance of a puck finding the back of the net will certainly rise if you bring big bodies in front of the net to screen the goaltender or lay in juicy rebounds.
Washington has plenty of big bodies that can easily disrupt goaltenders. They have at least one on each of their four lines. Although Ovechkin usually shoots the puck from the wing, the Rangers have been doing a good job limiting his opportunities thus far in the series. Creating havoc in front of Lundqvist could add another dimension to his game that we haven’t seen in the series yet.
Troy Brouwer, Joel Ward, Eric Fehr, Jason Chimera, Matt Hendricks, and Jay Beagle are also big guys that can do a good job of making Lundqvist’s job a lot tougher.
Win the Boards Battles
Through the first three games, the board battles down low and in the neutral zone have led to plenty of opportunities for both teams. The Capitals are stronger than the Rangers and need to take advantage of it. Doing so will create even more opportunities to solve Lundqvist.
Braden Holtby Can’t Cheat
I don’t mean cheat as in doing something unethical or illegal, I mean he can’t cheat on a two-on-one rush from the Rangers coming up the ice. The blue shirts are starting to figure this out and it has led to some great opportunities. In Game 3, we saw Brian Boyle take the puck up the ice during the closing seconds of a Rangers power play, and because Holtby went to cheat to the other side of the post as opposed to hugging the side closest to him, Boyle was able to shoot one short side and give the Rangers the momentum they needed to get back in the game.
While Holtby has been stellar for the most part of the series, he can’t allow teams to think he’s becoming predictable.
Clear the Puck Out of the Zone
The deciding goal in Game 3 came as the Capitals failed to clear the puck out of the zone. Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonough kept the puck in, which soon led to a nifty feed from Rick Nash to Derek Stepan for the game winner.
It’s never fun for a team to look back on a game and say, “Well, if we got the puck out, that chance would’ve never happened.” Clear the puck out of their zone, and the chances the Capitals let in less goals will rise.
Power Play Efficiency
For a team that was first in the NHL on the power play throughout the regular season, it’s safe to say the Capitals performance on the man advantage in this series has been disappointing. Again, this all goes back to shooting the puck. They need to put pucks on net and not pass off quality chances. Making that extra pass isn’t always the best move. I cannot express that enough.
#Caps' Ovechkin on PP: "We try to find the shooting lane and we didn't find it. It's blame on us."
— Stephen Whyno (@SWhyno) May 7, 2013
Don’t Take Unnecessary Penalties
In Game 3, the Capitals were a man down on six different occasions before the halfway mark of the second period. Luckily enough, they only surrendered one goal on those chances. This cannot become a regular habit.
The more time the Capitals are a man down, the more time that is deducted from their stars being on the ice. They need to stay out of the sin-bin.
Matt Schreiber is the Florida Panthers Lead Writer for The Hockey Writers. He grew up just outside of Washington, DC before moving to Boca Raton, FL, where he currently resides. He also covers the NHL for Bleacher Report.