WASHINGTON, DC – Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal was the fifth playoff game of Rick Nash’s NHL career. It was his first since April 23, 2009, and his first as a New York Ranger.
Like the previous four, it ended in defeat.
“I would have liked to win. But the first one’s out of the way, and it’s time to move on,” said Nash, after the Washington Capitals’ 3-1 victory over the Rangers at Verizon Center on Thursday night.
It wasn’t for lack of effort on Nash’s part. He had 16 shot attempts to lead all players – Alex Ovechkin, for comparison’s sake, had eight – with eight shots finding their way to goalie Braden Holtby (35 saves).
He had a few long range, un-screened chances and a few close to the crease, but none found their way past Holtby. He also played set-up man on occasion with linemates Brad Richards and Mats Zuccarello.
Nash finished with no points and an even rating in 23:04 of ice time, most for any Rangers forward.
Nash spent 4:46 of that time on the power play, where the Rangers were 0-for-4. He managed just one shot.
“We just couldn’t establish to get something past them. We had some good opportunities. We just need to bear down and make it work. Special teams is a huge key to this series,” he said.
The Capitals, meanwhile, were 1-for-5 with the man advantage, coming into the playoffs with the best power play in the NHL. Alex Ovechkin's power-play goal at 6:59 of the second period tied the game after Carl Hagelin's goal in the first for New York. Marcus Johansson's breakaway goal at 14:21 of the second gave the Capitals a lead they wouldn't relinquish.
“We gotta stay disciplined. It’s the key to the series,” said Nash.
Nash was acquired by the Rangers last summer in a blockbuster trade to be a difference maker in games like this. To score a key goal on a 5-on-3, which New York squandered. To break through against a hot goaltender. To rally the team from a deficit and give them a chance to extend the game into overtime, or win it outright.
It didn’t happen in Game 1 for Nash.
“I put pressure on myself every single night, and in the playoffs that ups even more,” he said.
“[I] gotta get the job done. Had a lot of chances tonight. Just couldn’t beat’em. Gotta be better.”