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How the Rangers closed out Game 4 to sweep the Capitals: 5 takeaways

Written by on April 29, 2024

WASHINGTON — Artemi Panarin’s third-period power-play goal broke a 2-2 tie and lifted the New York Rangers to a 4-2 victory over the Washington Capitals on Sunday night as the Rangers became the first team to advance to the second round in the 2024 Stanley Cup playoffs with a four-game sweep of the Caps.

Kaapo Kakko and Vincent Trocheck also scored for the Rangers, Jack Roslovic added an empty-netter and Igor Shesterkin made 23 saves to finish the series 4-0 with a 1.75 goals-against average and .930 save percentage.

Panarin had two points and, per NHL Stats, passed Vic Hadfield with 123 combined regular-season and playoff points this season and is only one point behind Jaromir Jagr’s Rangers record (124 in 2005-06).

Mika Zibanejad assisted on two power-play goals and now has 10 career points in six potential-clinching games. The Rangers star is averaging 1.67 points per game in that scenario. Among active players to skate in at least five such best-of-seven contests, only Denis Gurianov has a higher average (2.0 points per game).

Martin Fehervary and Hendrix Lapierre scored for the Caps, but it was the Rangers who became the second Presidents’ Trophy winners in the past 10 years to sweep in the first round (Avs won their first six games of the 2021 playoffs). It was their first sweep since 2007.

The Rangers improved to 4-2 all-time in Game 4s when leading a best-of-seven series 3-0.

Rangers jump on Capitals’ mistake early

With Caps fans hoping for an electric start in hopes of staving off elimination, Nick Jensen, the veteran defenseman making a rushed return from injury and making his series debut for injured Trevor van Riemsdyk, committed a costly turnover less than a minute into the game. Pressured by Will Cuylle, he lost control of the puck in his own zone and slid it right to Kakko in the low slot, the most dangerous area of the ice. Kakko didn’t hesitate with the puck on his stick and ripped it past Charlie Lindgren on the Rangers’ first shot of the game. The game was only 57 seconds old, and Washington was already chasing. Then, Shesterkin kept the momentum in New York’s favor, stopping a dangerous Dylan Strome chance 14 seconds later on a breakaway. Though perhaps a bit fluky — turnovers in that dangerous a spot don’t happen often — Kakko’s goal was a reward for a third line that has played strong defense but, up until the goal, had yet to log a point in the series.

Vincent Trocheck comes through over and over

Trocheck, one of the best Rangers’ best forwards in the series, scored his team-leading third goal and sixth point of the playoffs when he buried a power-play goal with 14.7 seconds left in the first period for a 2-1 lead (before Tom Wilson put the Rangers right back on the power play by attacking Adam Fox presumably because he felt the Rangers defenseman embellished the penalty that led to the goal). Later, on a second-period Washington power play, it was Trocheck who ruined an Alex Ovechkin possible scoring chance by stealing the puck on a two-on-one down low between Ovechkin and T.J. Oshie and then it was Trocheck who drew the penalty that led to Panarin’s third-period power-play, go-ahead goal.  Trocheck was a rock star in the first two games of the series with his line going head to head with the Ovechkin-Connor McMichael-Oshie top line, then scored a power-play goal and assisted on Barclay Goodrow’s short-handed game-winner in Game 3.

Capitals have strong second period

With the Rangers opening the second period with a 1:45 power play on a fresh sheet of ice thanks to the Wilson minor at the end of the first, Washington did a tremendous job killing off the penalty, then generated momentum from there. They dominated the first 15 minutes of the period by tilting the ice and at one point outshooting the Rangers 8-1 before New York came on late. But the Capitals got the tying goal when Lapierre, the 22-year-old 22nd pick from the 2020 draft, buried his own rebound with his first career playoff goal after a great individual effort skate through some flat-footed Rangers.

Rangers’ sweep aided by balanced scoring

When Kakko scored immediately into the game to become the first Rangers player since Mark Messier in 1997 to score a goal in the opening minute of a potential-series clinching game, he became the 10th Rangers player to score in the series (15 goals) and the 14th to get a point out of the 18 skaters to dress in the series. The Rangers have a lot of star power, but their balanced scoring could be the type of thing that gives opponents fits the rest of the playoffs. Not many teams boast the secondary scoring the Rangers can on a nightly basis. It takes a lot of pressure off the likes of Zibanejad, Chris Kreider and Hart Trophy contender Artemi Panarin.

Alex Ovechkin sees shifts cut

Caps coach Spencer Carbery was honest in his assessment of Ovechkin following Game 2, saying the aging star was struggling and a “little off.”

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His ice-time decisions reflected those beliefs in Game 4. Only three Washington skaters played less than the future Hall of Famer’s 8:38 through two periods. Carbery scrambled his lines and played Max Pacioretty with McMichael and Oshie and deployed the Aliaksei Protas-Dylan Strome-Tom Wilson line often at five-on-five. Ovechkin, who had 23 goals in his final 36 games to finish the season with 31, played only 14:51 in Game 4 — 3:58 of which came on the power play — and played even-strength on a line with Lapierre and Sonny Milano. He failed to log a point in the series on six shots — zero in Game 1 and one each in Games 2 and 4. This was the first time in Ovechkin’s career that he registered zero points in the playoffs and a playoff series.

(Top photo: Randy Litzinger / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

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