"There's a chance anything could happen," Caps coach Bruce Boudreau said. "When you lose, you make changes."
This much was clear to everyone after the Rangers beat the Capitals 4-3 in Game 1 of their first-round Eastern Conference series Wednesday night: New York goalie Henrik Lundqvist outplayed Washington's Jose Theodore.
And Theodore was the first to acknowledge that.
"I'm not happy with my game," the 2002 league MVP said. "Just wasn't good enough."
His coach's take?
"He's right," Boudreau said.
So Simeon Varlamov, he of six career NHL appearances, stayed on the bench, and Theodore stayed in -- and allowed Brandon Dubinsky to score the winning goal with 8:17 remaining. Dubinsky took a pass from Markus Naslund, made a move that left defenseman Jeff Schultz sprawled on the ice and sent a shot over Theodore's glove.
Theodore's counterpart, Henrik Lundqvist, made 32 saves and kept Alex Ovechkin without a goal. The league's leading goal-scorer each of the last two seasons took 13 shots.
"Goaltending was a key part tonight," Rangers coach John Tortorella said.
Washington will try to even the series at home Saturday in Game 2.
"Right now we feel pretty good about how we played," Lundqvist said. "Confidence is huge in the playoffs."
Scott Gomez, Nik Antropov and Naslund scored as New York built a 3-1 lead, and Sean Avery made his presence felt from start to finish, helping the seventh-seeded Rangers grab momentum against the second-seeded Capitals.
Ovechkin had two assists, and Tomas Fleischmann, Viktor Kozlov and Alexander Semin scored for Washington.