Rangers Bottle Caps in 4-Game Sweep

AP Photo/Tom Brenner

Take out the brooms, Rangers are movin’ on.

Artemi Panarin snapped a 2-2 tie with a power play goal early in the third period and the Rangers went on to a 4-2 win at Capital One arena to complete a four game sweep of the Washington Capitals in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Winning playoff series in general is a difficult thing to do and to close a team out in four is even tougher,” Vincent Trocheck said. “I think the fourth win’s always the hardest. I just think that is says we’re a good hockey team.”

The Rangers left no doubt as to who was the superior team and the numbers back that up.

6 for 16 on the power play in the series and two shorthanded goals gave the Rangers 8 goals on special teams. Penalty kill was superb as Washington was 2 for 17 with the man advantage. 10 different Rangers scored goals and the Caps had the lead for a total of 3 minutes and 21 seconds in the entire series.

This is my first playoff series against Washington,” Mika Zibanejad said. “It’s a building growing up watching Ovi [Alex Overchkin] and [Sidney] Crosby play here and just knowing how loud it is here, heard itfrom other guys, it’s a fun building to play in, just makes it a whole lot sweet.”

The Rangers held future Hall of Famer Alex Ovechkin in what has to be his worst ever playoff showing, as he did not score a point and had a total of five shots on goal for the entire series. “You have to pay a little bit more attention to him on the penalty kill and that can’t be easy for him,” Trocheck said. “Obviously, we’re extremely focused on him.”

Panarin had a dominant third period and finished with a goal and an assist. Zibanejad had two assists, while Kappo Kakko, Trocheck and Jack Roslovic (empty netter) also scored goals.

Igor Shesterkin, who has lifted his game in the post season, made 23 saves, including some huge stops in the third period after the Rangers had grabbed the lead. Caps goalie Charlie Lindgren made 19 saves but was victimized by Washington’s sub par play by the penalty killing unit.

Both teams came out flying in a frantic first few minutes of the game and it didn’t take long for the Rangers to cash in.

That [the first goal of the game] was a big goal because you could tell Washington, they came out with a lot of pep in their step,” Coach Peter Laviolette said. “To get that goal, I thought was really important early in the first period.”

Caps defenseman Nick Jensen, who was out of the lineup since April 13th with an upper body injury, coughed up the puck and it ended up on the stick of Kakko who wasted no time from the slot as he fired it into the net for his first goal of the playoffs and a 1-0 lead at the :57 second mark of the first period.

Happened fast, I was thinking maybe it’s a breakaway. Kind of close to the net already, so just wanted to shoot it,” Kakko said with a big smile on his face in the happy post game room.

The Caps pressured the Rangers and forced a turnover to tie the game with 5:06 remaining in the first period. Aliaksei Protas fed Martin Fehervary in the left face off circle and he wristed one into the net to tie game at one.

With 1:09 left in the first period, Jensen was called for tripping Adam Fox and the Rangers went on the power play. Jensen appeared to stick out his knee and it looked like Fox was injured but he was able to skate it off.

The Rangers cashed in with the man advantage as Trocheck capped off a pretty passing play to give the Rangers a 2-1 lead after one.

All five players on the ice touched the puck on the play. Zibanejad, who had a goal and six assists in the series, eventually found Panarin down low and he passed to Trocheck who buried the puck from the slot for the Rangers second lead of the game.

As Fox was going to celebrate the goal with his teammates, he was grabbed from behind by Capitals tough guy Tom Wilson who was assessed a roughing penalty.

The Caps would not go down easy as they tied the game once again in the second period.

Ryan Lindgren was at the end of a long shift and Caps defenseman Hendrix Lapierre was able to beat the Rangers defenseman for a back hand shot in close. Shesterkin made the initial save but Lapierre put in the rebound to tie the game at two at 7:48 of the second period.

Washington was the better team for a stretch of the second period but the Rangers were able to hang on and keep the game tied after two which was pivotal because of their success in third periods this season. The Rangers were 11-2-1 when they were tied after two, so that gave them confidence heading to the final 20 minutes of regulation.

T.J. Oshie was called for a high stick and the Rangers power play went to work.

Panarin, who had two goals and two assists in the series, took a pass from Zibanejad and turned and fired a wrist shot past Caps goaltender Charlie Lindgren to put the Rangers on top for a third time. Panarin, who was being double shifted in the third period, scored his second goal of the series at 3:21 of the final stanza.

The Rangers have to be ecstatic with the way Panarin played this series, especially coming off that disappointing effort in the seven game loss to the Devils last season where he had two assists in game one and nothing thereafter. “That work through the course of the year has set himself and pushed himself to a point where now he can enter the playoffs and continue to play that way,” Laviolette said.

From there, the Rangers defense clamped down and when the Caps did have some offensive zone time, Shesterkin was there to deny any opportunities to tie the game again.

We know what we have back there. We don’t want to rely on him but when we do have breakdowns and mistakes, we have good trust that he’ll have our backs,” said an appreciative Jacob Trouba.

With 5:23 left, the Ranger goaltender made a huge save to deny Alexander Alexeyev from the left faceoff circle to keep the lead. With the Rangers on the power play late in the third period, Shesterkin stopped Wilson on a shorthanded chance.

New York Rangers goaltender Igor Shesterkin (31) makes a save during the third period in Game 4 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup first-round playoff series against the Washington Capitals Sunday, April 28, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Tom Brenner)

The Caps pulled Lindgren and Jack Roslovic put the game away by scoring an empty net goal with :51 seconds remaining.

For the Rangers, it was their first sweep since 2007 when they closed out the Atlanta Thrashers in four games of the Conference Quarter-Finals.

In recent playoff appearances, the Rangers have had trouble avoiding extended series which proved to be costly as they advanced, so this sweep was gladly welcomed as they await the winner of the Hurricanes/Islanders series.

There’s a real value in that where you can start to look at both opponents until you find out which one you’re actually going to play,” Laviolette said.

4 down, 12 to go

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