WASHINGTON -- For one period, the Washington Capitals looked as if they'd perhaps gone a bit too far with their new defensive scheme. They were on their heels, expending lots of energy with raucous hits with few scoring chances to speak of, relying on their young goalie to stop everything that came his way.
They came out for the second period a different team, dominating the New York Rangers from one end of the rink to the other.
Jason Chimera and Jason Arnott scored in a 1:57 span, Michal Neuvirth got the shutout in his second career NHL playoff game and the Capitals won 2-0 on Friday night to take a 2-0 lead in the first-round Eastern Conference series.
The 23-year-old Neuvirth, who had four shutouts in the regular season, has stopped 46 of 47 shots so far in the series. Henrik Lundqvist made 16 saves for the Rangers.
Game 3 is Sunday in New York.
Game 2 was more physical and feisty than the Capitals' 2-1 overtime victory in Game 1, in part due to agitator Sean Avery's return to New York's lineup after he was a healthy scratch Wednesday night. The stat sheet tallied 29 combined hits in the first period alone.
Overall, though, it seemed as if the teams had swapped jerseys. The Rangers came out the more aggressive team, creating chance after chance on Neuvirth, while the Capitals were more tight and defensive, content to poke away the puck at the last minute and wait for a possible counterattack. New York coach John Tortorella said his players needed to find ways to generate offence after Washington's skaters blocked 32 shots in Game 1.
They did, but they couldn't solve Neuvirth.
The Capitals needed more than six minutes to get their first shot on goal, had none on their first power play and were outshot 13-7 in the first period. Their best chance came on a penalty kill when Mike Knuble missed an open net after a pass from Brooks Laich,
The second period was a different story. The Rangers didn't get a shot on goal for more than 10 minutes. By then, it was 2-0 in favour of the Capitals.
Washington's first goal was a gem of puck movement. Scott Hannan kept the puck in the zone and got it behind the net, where Laich fought for position and managed to slide it to Marcus Johansson while falling to the ice. Johansson instantly fed Chimera, who was unchecked in front of the net and went down to his left knee and he wristed in the easy score at the 2:11 mark.
Soon, New York's Ryan McDonagh was in the penalty box for a roughing call after the whistle, and the Capitals took advantage. Mike Green unleashed a slap shot from the right circle that was deflected by Rangers defenceman Matt Gilroy over to the left circle, where Arnott pounced on the puck and put his shot past Lundqvist 4:08 into the period. Alex Ovechkin got the secondary assist.
The Capitals outshot the Rangers 8-3 in the second period. With the lead, Washington reigned in the attack in for the third period. Neuvirth was tested repeatedly, but nothing got by him.
NOTES: Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau on Avery's return: "I think Sean has been in the league long enough that our guys will know not to get baited, hopefully, but we'll definitely talk to them about him." LW Mats Zuccarello was scratched to make room for Avery. ... Capitals D Dennis Wideman skated for a few minutes Friday morning as he attempts to return after being hospitalized with a scary leg injury. Boudreau called Wideman's appearance a "surprising sign" and said the defenceman might be able to play in the series, depending on how long it goes. ... The Rangers are 1 for 31 on the power play in their last 11 games, including the last nine of the regular season.