Photos and VideosMore Photos and Videos
The Rangers have made their bones this season winning games that could have gone either way.
They've done it by being disciplined on defense, by giving extra effort all over the ice and by getting the puck to bounce their way more often than not. That's the formula they rode past the Senators in the first round and it is also the formula that led to a 3-2 defeat in Game Two against the Capitals.
Unlike the Senators series, this wasn't a case of the Rangers losing because they were outworked by a team playing with more urgency. There was plenty of urgency from the Rangers and they blocked shots, played hard and controlled the pace of the game for long portions of the game.
As we said Monday, though, the Capitals are playing the exact same style these days and they matched the Rangers' defensive commitment even when it looked like the game was in the hands of the Rangers. They cut down the passing lanes that the Rangers used to beat them in Game One and got a much better performance from goalie Braden Holtby than in the opener.
And they also got the bounces. Michael Del Zotto, who played a very strong game that included the shot Ryan Callahan deflected into the net to tie the game at two in the third period, hit two posts in the closing minutes of the game.
The Capitals hit posts in Game One, which helped the Rangers escape with a 3-1 win, and the Rangers hit the posts this time around. We'll get to the other big reason why the Rangers wound up losing the game in a moment, but there are going to be nights when you lose on a puck off the crossbar when you play games that can go either way.
Of course, the Rangers made things extra difficult on themselves by taking a pair of penalties back-to-back midway through the period. Brian Boyle and Brad Richards both made lazy plays and got called for holds as a result with the Capitals finally making the Rangers pay during the Richards penalty.
Alexander Ovechkin, who played just 13 minutes, got the puck off a draw and beat Henrik Lundqvist with a shot through a screen. Ovechkin can still shoot, despite the Capitals' desire to keep him on the bench, and the Rangers gave him a chance to beat them by taking bad penalties in a tie game.
When the Rangers lost Game Two of the Ottawa series, we wondered if they could find the right level of urgency to lift their game. This loss is different, because the Rangers didn't play poorly on Monday night.
They played their game, but the Capitals played the same game. That meant it came down to a bounce here and a whistle there in a game that didn't care that the Rangers were the better team.
The bounces will be different next time and this doesn't feel like a series that's going to be decided by too much else.