Friday, April 24, 2009

A Win At Home, Finally

Capitals 4, Rangers 0
Scoresheet - Post - Times

When the Capitals were at practice yesterday at Kettler, the group looked a bit shocked. They were down 3 games to one. Once again, the Capitals find themselves in a do or die situation. They needed a jump, a spark to grow off of, and it came in Game 5 from an unlikely source. Matt Bradley scored his first and second career NHL playoff goals with in seven minutes of one another and the Caps force a Game 6 with a 4-0 win over the NY Rangers.

Bradley earned the game's first star after scoring shorthanded on his first goal and even had the crowd chanting his name after his second. Add goals from the Alexes, Alex Semin with a wicked wrister that beat Henrik Lundqvist right off the face off draw. And Alex Ovechkin who added to his highlight reel with a couple of moves to beat a couple of Ranger defenders when he finally cut through to Lundqvist to put it behind him for only his second goal of the series.

Where Brads and the Alexes gave the Caps the goals, Simeon Varlamov shut the door behind him. Varly gets his second career playoff shut out in just his fourth start in net. The Rangers have only scored three goals against the rookie goaltender. Let me repeat that, in four games only 3 goals have beaten Varly in the Stanley Cup playoffs. We already know Varly has been nothing short of miraculous for the Caps, and somewhat of a magician. His goals against average leads all goaltenders in the playoffs.

Varlamov had his magic wand out again as he made another unbelievable stop in the first. John Erskine broke is stick on a point shot and the Rangers were on the counter attack. Bradon Dubinsky had a jump on the Caps' defense and made a move to get the puck around the rookie goaltender. But again Varlamov, out of nowhere, reached behind him and made the stop as Dubinsky was trying to get the puck around him.

The Capitals did a much better job of getting the puck to the net. It helped that Lundqvist let in a couple of softies and maybe his confidence is shaken a bit. The Caps really haven't changed how they have played. They have turned up the intensity knob though, and the Rangers seemed to crack under the pressure. They just needed a couple of breaks and the Caps got them in Game 5.

The Rangers just couldn't get much going for themselves on their power plays or killing off seven Capital power play chances. They sat their catalyst Sean Avery which may have been a bit of a mistake as the Rangers seemed to lose their grit. Without Avery as a distraction, the Caps seemed to thrive and they dominated the Rangers throughout the first two periods. The Capitals chased Lundqvist from net in the third period and Stephen Valiquette saw his first action in the series.

Not all of the action was on the ice. Midway through the third period a fan gave Ranger head coach John Tortorella a beer shower. Very uncool. That lead to a slew of dismissals of fans both Caps and a few Ranger faithfull too. Most Caps fans know better than that, it was a punk move. After the game, Ray Ferraro (TSN analyst that was between the benches) said they should have taken the glass down and let some of the Rangers show that fan what being tough really means (paraphrasing because he dropped a few choice words that were a bit strong).

After that incident, it got a little chippy on the ice. The Rangers seemed to lose it a little. The meltdown led to two Rangers getting 10 minute misconducts for unsportsmanlike conduct. Dubinsky took a run at Semin and a short time later Colton Orr clothes lined Semin and that created a bit of a stir. From that point it just looked like the Rangers conceded the game.

Mike Green thought he had the Caps' third goal in the first, but he hit the puck with a high stick and it was correctly waved off. Dave Steckel had a great game both in the face off circle where he won 73% of his draws. Both Steckel and Ovechkin had the team high of 5 hits for each. Erskine played another excellent game, not only stepping in when things were getting rough, his defensive game has improved. He finished the night with a plus 3.

The game now transfers back to New York and the Capitals work is not done. They can take a lot of positives from this win, but the score goes back to 0-0 on Sunday. The Rangers are not sweating too much as they still have the series lead. The Caps will have to bring their very best to MSG.

No comments: