LANDOVER -- The Washington Capitals came home last night with a perfect playoff record for killing penalties, a hot goaltender in Don Beaupre and the home-ice advantage against the New York Rangers in their Patrick Division semifinal series.
Today, the Capitals have none of the above.
While the Rangers scored twice on the power play, Beaupre was lifted after two periods and four goals of a 6-0 defeat before 16,592 at the Capital Centre. The victory gave New York a 2-1 lead in a best-of-seven series that will resume here tomorrow night.
After the Capitals failed to score on a four-minute power play that ended with 2 minutes, 41 seconds left in the first period, the game belonged to the Rangers and Mike Richter. The second-year goaltender made 37 saves in recording his first National Hockey League shutout.
"If we had taken advantage of the power plays in the first period, it would have been a completely different game," Capitals coach Terry Murray said after the worst defeat at home in the team's 71-game playoff history. "We didn't, and Richter played very well. He made some big saves in the first period, and that was a big reason why the New York Rangers were able to turn it around."
Bernie Nicholls, who was benched in New York's las regular-season game because of a prolonged slump, scored twice for the Rangers and added two assists. The goals were his second and third of these playoffs. Former Capital Mike Gartner also scored for the Rangers.
After abandoning the chippy play that dominated the first two games in New York -- and didn't work in Beaupre's 3-0 shutout Friday night at Madison Square Garden -- the Rangers used their collective heads rather than trying to knock off Washington's.
"We took too many penalties [last night], but they were more honest ones," said Rangers coach Roger Neilson, whose team led 2-0 after the first period, and 4-0 after the second. "We did a good job killing penalties, but he [Richter] made some tremendous saves. He played a great game."
Said Richter: "After the first period, there weren't too many rebounds. It's their [his defensemen's] shutout as much it's mine."
After Kris King opened the scoring by starting and finishing a three-on-one break with 8:07 gone in the first period, Gartner gave New York a 2-0 lead with 31 seconds left in the period with the Capitals a man down. It was the first power-play goal of the series for the Rangers after 15 tries.
The Capitals seemed to have one brief chance to come back, but after the puck bounced weirdly from behind the Rangers' net and in front of Richter in the opening minutes of the second period, Washington's Kelly Miller couldn't get his stick down. Washington didn't get many good scoring chances thereafter.
"If we could have got one [goal] early, it would have been a different story," Miller said. "We play well with the lead and they play well with the lead too. They played a patient game and waited for us to make mistakes."
Unfortunately, the Capitals' mistakes came and hardly stopped. After Nicholls' first goal gave the Rangers a 3-0 lead with 12:17 gone in the second period, Mark Janssens scored 3 1/2 minutes later. Nicholls scored another goal early in the third period, and Darren Turcotte added another power-play goal with 2:45 left in the game.
"You can't get too high when you win and you can't get too down when you lose," said Beaupre, who was coming off a 3-0 shutout in New York Friday night. "You've got to be able to bounce back. You've got to get more determined and get mad at ourselves."
Scoring a couple of goals might also help a little.
NOTES: The Capitals got a bit of a scare late in the first period, when left wing Dimitri Khristich got hit in the knees from behind by Paul Broten's stick. Kristich had to be helped off, but later returned. The incident seemed to be the provocation for a third-period fight between Alan May and Broten.
N.Y. Rangers 2 2 2 -- 6
Washington 0 0 0 -- 0