Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Dramatic Finish

Capitals 2, Rangers 1 OT (Washington leads series 1-0)
Game Summary

(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
The playoffs have returned to Chinatown, Washington, D.C. And it returned in dramatic fashion. The Capitals open their post season march to Lord Stanley's Cup by coming from behind. The New York Rangers seemed to have the game at hand, scoring in the third period and Henrik Lundqvist seemed to have an answer for every Capital offensive chance. But a tying goal by Alex Ovechkin and the OT winner from Alex Semin secures the Caps first win and a series lead as they beat the Rangers 2-1.

It was a fantastic beginning for the Capitals. But they just could not beat Ranger netminder Lundqvist. They had a plethora of great chances to take the early lead in both the first and second periods, but the Rangers held strong and forced a scoreless tie into the third period.

Nick Backstrom had a glorious chance late in the second period when Ovechkin sprang him free on a breakaway. Backstrom had Lundqvist beat five-hole, but the Ranger goaltender's momentum and back leg thwarted Backstrom's chance. Mike Knuble rang a few shots off the post as did Jason Arnott. It seemed that the Caps would again be frustrated by a good goaltender for a second post season in a row.

(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Michal Neuvirth would make some big saves down the stretch to keep his team in it. Both net minders seemed to go toe to toe with some meaningful stops. Lundqvist seemed to have the saves when his team needed him to have them, and the same could be said of Neuvirth. 

Things looked bleaker when Matt Gilroy scored in the third period and the Rangers looked to clamp down with the 1-0 lead. It looked like the Caps' offensive woes would continue for them when Ovechkin charged the net hard. He knocked back Dan Girardi in the process and Alex Semin plucked the loose puck behind Ovi and in front of Lundqvist.

It looked like Semin wanted to stick handle or look for a pass instead of getting on net. Ovechkin just took the puck from his stick and jammed it in behind Lundqvist. The puck had eyes, squirting through the big pads to tie the game with time to spare in the third. The goal breaks a playoff scoring slump by Ovechkin and it would eventually force overtime.

In the extra period, both teams seemed to share chances early before settling back down into their systems. But the Rangers' defense just looked a bit haggard as the overtime dragged on. It would lead to a series of great forechecking keep-ins by Jason Arnott. When Marc Staal was pressured by Brooks Laich forced his hand trying to dump the puck up the boards. But the clearing attempt was knocked down by Arnott who didn't waste time feeding Alex Semin in the high slot. Semin shot it high over Lundqvist's right shoulder to end the game and give the Caps the 1-0 lead in the series.

The Capitals PK came through killing off two crucial penalties including one late in the third period with the score tied. The Caps only chance on the power play came in the first period. But they could not convert. The Rangers did not take a penalty after that.

Mike Green was very good in his return to the ice after being off the ice for nearly 2 months. He played 26:30 of ice time and registered 4 shots on net, a hit, both a giveaway and takeaway and 4 blocked shots. While at times he looked a bit tired or lagging, he seemed to find his legs as the game went on.

While it's fun to celebrate this overtime win, the series is long from over. Especially if both of these goaltenders play this way. Game 2 is on the horizon.

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