Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Let's Make It Seven

Capitals 2, Rangers 1 Series tied 3-3
Game Summary - Event Summary

(Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
The Capitals made history with winning four straight games in the playoffs after a loss. They did it to force a game seven against the New York Rangers back at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night. Alex Ovechkin scored on the power play and Jason Chimera scored the insurance goal they needed as Braden Holtby shut the door with 30 saves helping the Caps beat the Rangers 2-1.

"Every game, we’ve had a chance to win," said Chimera who had the game winning goal to complete the historic bounce back the Caps seem to have this post season. "That’s a big thing. It’s hard to be upset about a game when we’ve been in every game. We haven’t put ourselves out of it. And Holtby came back and played a good game for us."

Ovechkin made good on his promise to play much better than his game five performance where he was held shotless. He would score a scorcher on the first power play of the game when Anton Stralman took a tripping call just over a minute in the first period.

"You can see how we start the hockey game," Ovi said of the Caps' good start. "We get the puck deep, finish our checks and move our legs. [We] got a penalty and scored a goal."

Just 15 seconds later, with some keen passing, the Rangers were too spread out and Ovechkin was alone at the top the slot. Nick Backstrom fed him the puck and he beat Lundqvist with the one timer and it set the Verizon faithful in to a frenzy. Moving Ovechkin to the slot on the power play proved to be a wise move by Dale Hunter.

"It’s just one of those changes we make," Caps' bench boss said. "We thought that Ovi, with his big shot, could get a shot off. On the play, one of their players fell and really left an opening and a shot from there by Ovi doesn’t miss very often."

The Capitals' jump on the New York Rangers early made the Broadway Blueshirts look like they had jet lag through the first period. They badly out shot the Rangers through most of the first period and had the jump they seemed to have misplaced in game 5. New York did weather most of the storm and even had a few chances themselves as the period wound down thanks to a couple of penalties on the Caps by Brooks Laich and Roman Hamrlik. The Rangers would eventually out shoot the Caps 11 to 9 by the first period's end.

"I thought we regrouped in the first period," Ranger's head coach John Tortorella said to reporters. "It’s not the way we wanted to start. As we got going in the first period. I thought we regrouped."

The second Capitals goal was a bit flukey, but the Caps had worked hard to get that chance. Alex Semin played the puck behind the Rangers net and worked it around to the half boards right of Henrik Lundqvist. He turned to shot it on net, but it was blocked and the puck skittered to the other half boards where John Carlson quickly shot the loose puck on net. It went between a Ranger defender, off Nick Backstrom's foot and drifted from left to right in front of Lundqvist to an open Chimera. Chims just tapped the puck into the net giving him his fourth goal of these playoffs. 

The Caps would keep up their stingy defensive play in the second period, but Jeff Halpern (in the lineup as a replacement for last minute scratch Jay Beagle) missed a stick check and was called for the double minor giving the Rangers 4 minutes with the extra man advantage.

"It’s one of those accidental things again," Hunter said of the second double minor in as many games. "It starts with your goalie – [Holtby] was sound and penalty killers sacrificed, blocked shots, worked their tails off and got the job done."

It was the best PK the Caps had against New York this series as they held their foes to just three shots on net. The Caps, while gaining momentum from killing off all four minutes, could not score as Lundqvist seemed to have an answer for every shot after that.

More great penalty killing would have to come for the Capitals in the third period when Mike Green sent a puck flying over the glass for a delay of game call early in the frame. Troy Brouwer and Matt Hendricks, both brilliant for the Capitals on the Halpern double minor were equally as good killing off that chance for the Rangers. Brooks Laich and Carlson both even had shots on net shorthanded. The Caps went into shut down mode after that and their offensive production tailed off. Of the four shots total they had in the third period, two of them were off the penalty kill.

Holtby lived up to his hype of a rebounding goalie after a loss and he is now 6-0 in the playoffs following a loss. One save shy of a 31 shutout bid, he turned away the first 30 with some sound, solid netminding. When a Ranger shot hit him, Holtby played like he had puck Velcro on giving little or no rebounds for the Rangers to clean up in front of him. He was calm, square to the shooter. Stopping deflected pucks, screen shots and some difficult fluke shots that the Rangers threw at the 22 year old goaltender. 

The Rangers pressed their offensive muscle in the third and John Tortorella pulled his goaltender with well over two minutes left to play. The plan seemed to fizzle, but the Rangers were able to get a late goal to cut the Capitals' lead to 2-1. They crowded the net with two Blueshirts and the point shot had eyes as it deflected in off of Carlson's body, past Holtby to ruin his shutout bid.

"It felt like we were not really close until the last 20 seconds," Ranger netminder Lundqvist said. "We just have to go back home now and regroup and save all the energy we have left and play our best game of the playoffs here, at home."

The Caps force a game seven and get a second chance to get that important road win. This time to win the series. As long as they continue to move their feet and win the chases to loose pucks like they did tonight, they should be sitting pretty in yet another close tight game seven this post season.

Caps Notes:
  • Jay Beagle was a last minute scratch, he was half dressed before he got the news that he would sit out. His absence is due to an undisclosed injury. Jeff Halpern who took his spot was a -1, had one shot, and won 54% of his draws (7 of 13). It was his first game since March 23rd, his first playoff game with the Capitals since April 20, 2003 in a 2-1 loss to Tampa Bay.
  • Alex Ovechkin's goal now ties him with Peter Bondra for a franchise best 30 goals in the post season. He had one of the most entertaining non-goals when he brought the puck in the offensive zone and was forced to the ice by Ranger defenseman Ryan McDonagh. Ovi fell, twisted on the ice maintaining possession of the puck with his hand, moving it back to his stick and getting a shot on net while on his butt.
  • The Capitals blocked 24 shots to the Rangers 6. They are 2-0 this post season when facing elimination. 12 of the 13 games the Caps have played in these playoffs have been decided by one goal.
  • Backstrom now has three points in his last two games (1g, 2a).

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