Rangers captain comes through in crucial Game 2 moment vs. Capitals

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Washington Capitals at New York Rangers
Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports

Jacob Trouba may have been demoted to the third defense pair by the New York Rangers late in the regular season. But when the Rangers captain was needed most, he stepped up and delivered in a big spot in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference First Round against the Washington Capitals on Tuesday.

Trouba helped the Rangers preserve a 4-3 victory by playing the final 2:48 of the third period after the Capitals pulled goalie Charlie Lindgren for an extra attacker. Coach Peter Laviolette paired Trouba and Ryan Lindgren for that extended final shift to help close out the victory. Neither defenseman was expected to play nearly three consecutive minutes, but they were unable to get a change and simply grinded it out.

“It was a little bit of Hot Potato,” Trouba joked about the Rangers inability to get the puck out of their zone during the 6-on-5. “But we hung in there and battled, and ‘Shesty’ (Igor Shesterkin) made some big saves for us. But that’s how you’ve got to shut a game down, win dirty. Not the way you draw it up, but … it’s a win.”

Related: Rangers turning Alex Ovechkin into non factor in playoff series

Jacob Trouba takes demotion in stride, steps up for Rangers in Game 2 win

NHL: Washington Capitals at New York Rangers
Credit: Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

That Trouba was sent over the boards when Washington pulled its goalie speaks to the trust Laviolette has in the 11-year NHL veteran. He and Lindgren are New York’s two most physical defensemen. Trouba is also the most experienced of the Rangers D-Corps, and Laviolette leaned on that experience with the game hanging in the balance.

It’s a credit that Trouba has not complained about being replaced by Braden Schneider on a pair with K’Andre Miller. Trouba struggled after missing a month late in the season with an injury and being reinserted on the second defense pair. He got bumped down to play alongside Erik Gustafsson to finish the regular season, and that’s the way its’ been in the first two games of the Stanley Cup Playoffs too. Not exactly what you’d expect with your captain right before the postseason.

“I don’t view it as a bad thing,” Trouba told the New York Post before the start of the playoffs. “I think it’s kind of a different role, a different opportunity to do some things. Obviously, things can change quickly, so there’s no real like — obviously, not upset. I think our team is going to be a better team if we can all play better hockey.”

Trouba is averaging 18:40 in ice time in the Capitals series, roughly two minutes more than Schneider because the 30-year-old plays more on special teams. Trouba leads the Rangers with nine blocked shots in two games and is second with nine hits — so, he’s still playing his game, sticking to his role.

During the regular season, Trouba averaged 21:15 in ice time, nearly six minutes more per game than Schneider, who’s handled the extra minutes well and excelled alongside Miller.

“If [Schneider] plays the way he’s playing, that’s great for the team,” Trouba said last week. “I’m excited for the new little change and we’ll see how things go going into the playoffs.”

So far, so good on that front for Trouba and the Rangers, who visit the Capitals in Game 3 at Capital One Arena on Friday.

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

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