NEW YORK -- The Washington Capitals did a lot of things well in their playoff opener against the Rangers on Wednesday night.
They allowed only two goals, and nearly tied the score with a rally in the final two minutes. They killed five penalties without flaw. They also lost, 2-1, to fall behind in the best-of-seven series. But in so doing, the Capitals did no worse than they did a year ago.
Now the question becomes: Are the Capitals a team that can come back and dominate the next four games, as they did last year? Or will things be tougher?
The answer should emerge in Game 2 tonight, and, until then, you can only go by the Capitals' mood. And they didn't think anything was settled.
"One game doesn't mean too much," goalie Don Beaupre said.
Instead, there was a feeling that there's more of the same to come. More hitting, more intensity, more matchups.
"I don't think there are any surprises," coach Terry Murray said. "I knew and Roger [Neilson, Rangers coach] knew there would be matchups. We both want to get the puck in and get some forechecking going. I think we did that at times."
At least twice, however, the Capitals were victimized by the Rangers' neutral zone trap. Once, Jan Erixon broke away for the first goal of the game. Bernie Nicholls turned the other into what proved to be the game-winning score.
"We've got to play smarter," Murray said. "In the second period, we walked right into their defense."
Murray said it is possible that defenseman Al Iafrate, sidelined with personal problems, could rejoin the team for Game 2.
NOTES: Capitals D Neil Sheehy, who broke his ankle and leg in a preseason game in September, then hurt his back in December while skating in preparation for a comeback, has been cleared to play by team doctors. . . . G Mike Liut, who suffered a bruised ankle in practice Tuesday and missed Game 1, also was cleared to play.