Saturday, May 05, 2012

Young Guns Strike Again

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

The big guns started firing in this series. Goals by Alex Ovechkin, Nick Backstrom and Mike Green help to knot the series up at two games a piece with the New York Rangers with a 3-2 win in game four.

"Everybody has their roles and you’ve seen the guys blocking shots," Dale Hunter, Caps' head coach, told reporters on how his team won. "The big guns scored some big goals and the foot soldiers blocked shots. We played good defense."

Another tight game, another close score and the Washington Capitals feel right at home. The Caps started off with a great first period out shooting the Rangers 14 to 3. It would be a costly turnover by a rookie Chris Kreider as he tried to clear the zone. But his attempt was a picture perfect pass to a waiting Ovechkin who wasted no time shooting the puck on Ranger goaltender Henrik Lundqvist. The shot fooled King Henry and bounced off his glove and into the net. 

At times both teams made some mental errors, call it exhaustion from a triple overtime a couple of days before, or a long grueling grind it out game both teams were playing. But the Rangers took advantage of a misplayed puck in front of Braden Holtby early in the second period as they pressed the Caps in their own zone. Ovi half heartedly went for a block, missed and Brooks Laich mishandled the puck in front of Holtby while Artem Anisimov found the loose puck on his stick alone, he pulled it to his forehand and beat a sprawling Caps net minder to knot the game at 1-1.

The Rangers seem to have the momentum for most of that first part of the second period. They even got a hooking call on Joel Ward near the half way mark of the second period. But the Capitals' penalty kill was able stem the Ranger tide. It would take a hit to change momentum back to the Capitals, well... a hit and a goal.

A shift or two after the penalty kill, Backstrom went into the corner. Sensing a hit coming from Anisimov, Backstrom held up and delivered a hit of his own, flooring the Ranger forward to the ice. He passed the puck behind the net and found a soft spot opposite side of the net as Jason Chimera turned and looked to center the puck. Chimmers saw Backstrom and threw a fantastic pass threw a maze of Ranger defenders and Backstrom shot it high blocker side to regain the Caps' lead.

The Caps were buzzing, but it was short lived when Ovechkin left his feet during a hit on Dan Girardi. It stifled the home team's momentum. A miscommunication between defenders Denis Wideman and Jeff Schultz did recover a dumped in puck. Anisimov beat both to the loose biscuit, passed it to an open Marion Gaborik in front of the net and the game was tied at two.

After both teams shared chances in the third period, Backstrom nearly scoring on Lundqvist five hole on a 2 on 0 and the Rangers quick transition game nearly got them a goal, both teams tightened the defensive bolts. It looked as if the game would go into overtime with both teams stifling up the neutral zone.

(Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
Carl Hagelin chopped John Carlson's stick from his hands with 6:15 left in the third period. The Caps power play would hit the ice for only the second time of the game. But they would make it count. Ryan Callahan tried to get the puck out for the Ranger penalty killers, but he took a mis-step and coughed up the puck to Wideman who shuffled the puck to an open Mike Green on the other point. Green, with his head up the whole way, blasted a shot through the shot blocker Ryan McDonagh and beat Lundqvist to give the Caps' their one goal lead back.

"Those two goals," Lundqvist said of the second and third goals scored by the Caps. "I didn’t see the puck so I was pretty much just guessing where it was going both the second and third. It’s unfortunate."

"Before he was injured a lot, we used to see that all the time," Backstrom said of Green's go ahead goal. "It’s great for him and it’s great to see him score a goal. It gives him confidence. Huge goal for us."

This time, they would keep that lead. The Capitals would bear down and tighten defensively blocking a flurry of shots late by the Ranger's point men. The Caps would finish the game out blocking the Rangers 26 to 7. Schultz himself gobbled up 9 shots and at one point in the second period, that was exactly half of the team's total.

Again, it was not a perfect game for the Capitals who were credited with 17 giveaways. At times the Caps looked dead tired against a Ranger forecheck that at times was really good. But the Capitals found away to over come their mistakes and the big guns have finally showed up. Alex Semin did not score, but he had 4 shots on net and some beauty opportunities on the power play. Matt Hendricks also had a solid game, no where near his performance in game three where he put on a hitting show, but he had a key block late in the game to preserve the lead. He also won all nine of his faceoffs.

The series is now tied at two games a piece. The way the Capitals are playing on the road, game 5 should be a winning pivotal game for them. Just like the Boston series, the Caps had an opportunity to take command of the series and did in game 5. 

Caps Notes:
  • Ovechkin scored his fourth goal of the postseason and his second in his last three games. It was the 29th goal of his playoff career and he now trails Peter Bondra by one goal for first all-time in Capitals playoff history. He now has 57 postseason points and ranks third all-time in Capitals history. 
  • Chimera assisted on Backstrom’s goal and now has five points (4 goals, 1 assist) in nine career playoff games against the Rangers.
  • Mike Knuble found himself crashing the net again and crashing into the opposing goaltender, but this time it was more his momentum and the Ranger defense forcing the Caps' forward into the net. The puck followed him into the crease, but after review the puck was no where close to being in the net.
  • The Rangers were 9-0-1 in afternoon games this season. Well... now 9-1-1.

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