No team has given the Washington Capitals more trouble this season than the New York Rangers. Those 6-0 and 7-0 shutouts pushed some Caps fans into spiritual desolation, broke up several marriages, and probably killed a house cat or two. Fitting then that the Caps and Rags should meet in this first round of the playoffs. You know that old Klingon proverb, right? Revenge is a dish best served by two guys from Russia named Alex.
We were scoreless through two periods when Rangers newbie Matt Gilroy caught a pass from Brandon Prust and beat Michal Neuvirth. With only six minutes and change left in regulation, Alex Ovechkin’s repeated swats forced the puck past Henrik Lundqvist’s pads. And then, after nearly nineteen minutes of overtime hockey and with fatigue setting in, Jason Arnott intercepted a bad clear from Marc Staal and set up Alex Semin for the game-winner. It took damn near eighty minutes, but the good guys pulled it out: the Caps beat the Rangers 2-1 (OT) and take a 1-0 lead in the series.
There’s so much more to talk about from this super-sized game: Nicky Backstrom’s ever-lengthening drought, Jason Arnott’s underrated forecheck skills, how John Erskine is liable to kill a human being on national television at some point during this series– but we’re gonna leave it there for now. After all, it’s going to be a loooong post-season.
The Capitals played 80 minutes of gritty, character-revealing hockey. They didn’t get lazy and reckless when they reached exhaustion. Their best players were their best players (whatever that means), and they secured a meaningful victory. I’ve just marked the first of many tallies on the big board. 15 to go.
The Caps now lead the quarterfinal series 1-0, and the Red Army has another battle scheduled for Friday night. Russia’s finest expats will be there, in heart of the nation’s capital, flanked by their brosephs and cheered on by 20,000 unshaven crazy people.
Additional reporting by Neil Greenberg.
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