Thursday, April 21, 2011

Comeback Kids

Capitals 4, Rangers 3 2OT (Washington leads 3-1)
Game Summary

What appeared to be a rout, the team with the perfect record taking a lead into the third period looked poised to tie up the series at two games apiece. The New York Rangers and their fans seemed to finally get under the skin of head coach Bruce Boudreau and the Capitals. But the raucous crowd turned deftly silent when Jason Chimera chipped in the game winner in double overtime to give the Capitals a strangle-hold on the series with a 4-3 win.

Marcus Johansson had a career night with a pair of goals, both huge tallies including the game tying goal. Alex Semin's goal started the ball rolling for the Caps in the third period and Chimera's fluky goal settled the whole matter.

For the fourth straight game, a record in the NHL, no one scored in the opening period. The Caps seemed to play tight defense and the Broadway Blueshirts would not give up any ground either. That all changed in the second period when the Capitals defense had a brain fart and Artem Anisimov banked a shot off of Michal Neuvirth to break the 0-0 tie.

The Rangers would explode later in the period when Ruslan Fedotenko fed a perfect pass cross ice to an open Marion Gaborik who shot it passed Neuvirth to go up 2-0. Then just 6 seconds later, Brandon Dubinsky scored on a broken play to complete the mountain the Caps would have to climb 3-0 lead. Just like that, the Rangers were poised to tie up the series and the Ranger faithful, emboldened by the lead, took their fury out at Boudreau with chants of "Boooo-dreau" and "Can you hear us?"

The celebration would be short lived as the Caps roared back in the second thanks to some calm talking to between periods. Expecting fire and brimstone from their bench boss, Boudreau brought up the San Jose game as inspiration and the leaders of the team voiced their need to bring their game to another level.

"We had a little team meeting – the leaders, they were talking to us and Ovi – and we had to step up," said Neuvirth. "I think we weren’t very sharp in the second period, but we knew we had done it so many times in the season and we came back, and we prove it again tonight."

"In between periods, we never gave up," said Boudreau. "You get one and you never know. When we got both goals really quickly, I thought we believed we were really in it."

"[Boudreau] was pretty calm and said let's build momentum," Chimera said. "It is a long [series] and let's just play our game. We said it again and again, we've got the horsepower to do it. Let's just get one and get rolling."

(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Rolling they did. Just under three minutes into the third period the Caps got a break when Semin's shot slipped past Henrik Lundqvist. The veteran goaltender swiped at the puck pulling it from the goal line, but didn't cover the loose puck. Semin went hard to the net and was rewarded with some spare change, and he cashed in. The Ranger faithful stuttered in the goal's wake, suddenly a nervousness ran through the fans.

It would be exactly :57 seconds later when Brooks Laich raced into the corner for the puck and threw it blindly to the far side of the net. There Johansson was open and banked his shot off of Lundqvist and into the net. The Capitals were right back into this game.

Sean Avery, praised for his play in games 2 and 3, took a slashing penalty midway through the third period. The Ranger fans were quieted for the first time. Although the Capitals were unable to take advantage, the power play built enough momentum for a final shot from the point. John Carlson slapped it toward the net and the puck glanced off of Johansson and passed the Ranger net minder. Come back complete.

"We had a great effort in the third period," Chimera said of the comeback. "Once we got one we kind of felt them sit back a bit. Everyone does it. When you're up 3-0 you sit back a little bit and we took advantage of it."

(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
It seemed inevitable the game would head into overtime. Both teams traded chances but both goaltenders, Lundqvist and Neuvirth held ground. Alex Ovechkin, had a glorious opportunity to ice the game when he broke loose on a breakaway, but Lundqvist was there with the save. It would take double overtime to solve this game and over twelve minutes into the fifth period, Chimera put the cherry on top.

Chimera, whose speed and forechecking seemed to frustrate the Rangers, shot in on Lundqvist. The Ranger goaltender made the save and was about to cover up the rebound when Gaborik swiped the puck towards the corner. But it hit the hard charging Chimera in the chest and fell behind Lundqvist. Chim simply chipped the puck into the open net and just like that, game over. Caps take a 3 games to one lead.

"Right now, it's painful," said Lundqvist. "It is so frustrating at this point.
It's just unfortunate to have that happen in overtime. A lot of times, that's what happens. A quick play and before you realize it, it's over."

It would be the second overtime winner in the series for the Capitals. Madison Square Garden never seemed so quiet after that goal. The stunned faithful simply reached for their coats and headed to the exit. Caps take the series lead 3-1.

The Caps' penalty kill was phenomenal. They kept the Ranger power play at bay, killing all seven infractions including a too many men bench minor in the double overtime period. The powerplay was stagnant. It would go 0 for four on the night, but the game tying goal was scored just seconds after the penalty expired. They were able to get some offensive momentum from the extra man advantage.

Series returns to Washington for game 5 on Saturday on NBC. The Caps will be in a familiar position up three games to one and a chance to end the series starting at home. It is the same scenario last season against Montreal. Washington will have to practice what they have learned and shut down the Rangers to move to the next level.

Caps notes:
  • Boudreau got into a little hot water with his comments about MSG. The reason the Ranger fans were riding the coach so hard was his remarks on how the building was not as loud as Verizon Center and how "horrible" the building was, locker rooms etc. The Ranger faithful gave him an earful.
    "I might have made a mistake by saying what I said," Boudreau said. "Let's leave it at that. Let's let the players decide this and not worry about how I felt or what the crowd felt like."
  • The Hershey Bears are competing for their third straight championship in the AHL Calder Cup playoffs. The Bears are now tied with the Charlotte Checkers at two games apiece after their 3-2 win last night. All of the scoring was in the first period.
  • Eric Fehr played his first game of the series, filling in for an injured Mike Knuble. Fehr was a +3 with three shots and three hits.

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