Rangers finish off 1st-round sweep with 4-2 win against Capitals

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-New York Rangers at Washington Capitals
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Rangers were the first team to clinch a berth into the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs. And now they’re the first team to move on the second round of the postseason.

Though they were not at their best most of the night, the Rangers were good enough to win 4-2 in Game 4 against the Washington Capitals on Sunday and complete a sweep of their Eastern Conference First Round series.

It is their first playoff series sweep since 2007, when they defeated the Atlanta Thrashers in four games.

Artemi Panarin and Jack Roslovic scored power-play goals in the third period to snap a 2-2 tie for the Rangers, who will play the winner of the Carolina Hurricanes – New York Islanders series. Carolina leads 3-1 with Game 5 set for Tuesday.

The Rangers outscored the Capitals 15-7 in the series and Washington led for only 3:21 over the four games. The Capitals played their best Sunday in Game 4, though it wasn’t enough to dent the Rangers.

“The wins, I guess they came in different ways, but it was hard fought out there,” Rangers coach Peter Laviolette said. “You’ve got to give Washington a ton of credit because they went through a lot with their injuries.”

Igor Shesterkin tuned in another stellar performance with 23 saves. Vincent Trocheck scored his third goal of the series and Kaapo Kakko netted his first. Mika Zibanejad had two assists.

Martin Fehervary and Hendrix Lapierre scored for Washington, and Charlie Lindgren made 19 saves.

Capitals star forward Alex Ovechkin again was shut out, finishing without a single point in the series.

“I didn’t think we were at our best in the first and second [periods],” Zibanejad said. “But it’s going to happen and ‘Shesty’ comes up big for us and really gives us a chance to play a good third period and come away with a win and win the series.”

Related: Steve Valiquette calls Rangers nemesis ‘idiot’ on air during Game 4 broadcast

New York Rangers 4 – Washington Capitals 2

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-New York Rangers at Washington Capitals
Kaapo Kakko celebrates first-period goal in Game 4 –Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

It took the Rangers less than a minute to get the start they wanted on the road Sunday. Kakko scored his first goal of the series just 57 seconds into the first period, after Alex Wennberg pressured Capitals defenseman Nick Jensen into a turnover. The puck squirted out into the slot, where Kakko was left all alone to bury his shot past Lindgren.

From there, the first half of the opening period featured furious action going both ways, the most open play in this series. The Rangers surrendered several odd-man rushes and Shesterkin came up with a number of key saves, including a standout stop against Dylan Strome shortly after Kakko’s goal.

The Capitals broke through at 14:54, tying the game after a Rangers turnover in their own end. Strome collected the puck, passed to Aliaksei Protas, who in turn found Fehervary for his second goal of the series.

However, the Rangers scored a huge goal in the final minute of the first period to regain the lead and swing momentum back in their favor. Trocheck scored on the power play at 19:15, finishing a simply gorgeous tic-tac-toe passing sequence that involved four Rangers skaters, with Zibanejad making the final feed to Trocheck in the slot.

As the Rangers celebrated the go-ahead goal, Adam Fox was jumped by Capitals enforcer Tom Wilson, setting off a scrum that involved each skater on the ice. Wilson received the only penalty, a senseless roughing minor, that put the Rangers right back on the power play with the chance to bury the Capitals.

What set Wilson off is not known. Fox was tripped by Jensen at 18:51 on a knee-on-knee hit and was very slow to get up. He recovered quickly, rejoined the power play and started the passing sequence that put the Rangers up 2-1.

To their credit, the Capitals not only killed off Wilson’s penalty that carried into the second period, but they had two glorious scoring chances while shorthanded. They then took it to the Rangers, carrying play and outshooting the visitors 7-1 to start the second period.

Washington tied it 2-2 at 7:48 when Lapierre buried his own rebound off the rush.

The Capitals continued to press but didn’t score again in the period despite outshooting the Rangers 10-6.

Shesterkin made two big saves early in the third period against Strome and Protas and then the Rangers’ elite special teams rewarded their goalie for his stellar play.

First, Panarin scored a power-play goal at 3:21 to make it 3-2, and then shortly after, the Blueshirts killed off a Barclay Goodrow hooking minor at 5:01.

The Rangers largely shut the Capitals down after that but Shesterkin still had to make a tremendous 1-on-1 save against Alex Alexeyev with 5:20 to play in the period.

“I thought he was really good,” Laviolette said about Shesterkin. “He was on point. Even tonight, when the game’s hanging in the balance, he comes across and makes that huge save. He seems to be tracking everything really well.”

New York survived a strong three-minute push by Washington before Rasmus Sandin pulled down Panarin at 17:18 for a tripping penalty to short-circuit that momentum.

Roslovic scored a power-play goal into the empty net with 51 seconds to play to ice the game and finish off the sweep.

“I think the things we did in the regular season over 82 games is something we continue to do and I think we’ve been building toward this and I still think we can be better, but a great and hard-fought series,” Zibanejad said.

Jim Cerny is Executive Editor at Forever Blueshirts and Managing Editor at Sportsnaut, with more than 30 years of... More about Jim Cerny

Mentioned in this article:

More About: