OT hero, Jason Chimera (Photo credit: Scott Levy)
It’s already been a storied playoff series between the New York Rangers and Washington Capitals. One overtime clincher, a tightly wound shutout, a blunder-filled heartbreaker, and now this. In what might have been their most hyped hockey game since the Winter Classic, the Caps blew it big time. But only for about 40 minutes. Then, Bruce Boudreau and his boys revealed the content of their character through a soaring victory in enemy territory.
After yet another scoreless first period, the Rangers’ Artem Anisimov got one past Michal Neuvirth to make it 1-0. In a stretch of seven seconds, the Rangers notched two more via Gaborik and Dubinksy. The Capitals were deep in a 3-0 hole and playing crummy hockey heading into a third period some expected to be dour.
We may never know what happened during that intermission, but I think Bruce Boudreau flipped the gorram switch. Alex Semin pounced on an unsecured puck ‘twixt Henrik Lundqvist’s nethers to start the comeback. Less than a minute later, Brooks Laich hit up Marcus Johansson on the weak side to make it 3-2. And then again MoJo used his body to deflect a John Carlson long bomb for the tying goal.
So we headed into two lengthy overtime periods: an endless grind of nasty hits, exhaustion, and manic penalties. And just when it seemed the Capitals might make their fatal mistake, it was Henrik Lundqvist who couldn’t control a rambunctious puck. And it was Jason freaking Chimera who finally found the back of that utterly crashed net. 92 minutes later. Caps beat Rags 4-3 (OT).
- Everyone on Twitter needs a warm milk and a Xanax right now. Well done, fans. You weathered the storm, you kept the faith. You did all the things Bon Jovi songs tell you to do. High five the first person you see on Thursday wearing red, ’cause that person went through hell with you tonight and you both came out the other end.
- This bullet is dedicated to the battle between Bruce Boudreau and Madison Square Garden. You know the winner.
- In the bustling world of scoring chances, the Caps were down 7-12 through two periods. After the now-legendary comeback of the third period and two nasty OT sessions, the Caps pulled out ahead to finish up 21-18.
- CSN’s Al Koken on the second period: “It was like the Caps stayed in the dressing room.” Well said.
- How lopsided was OT? Caps led in scoring chances 9 to 3. It was only a matter of time. A matter of a lot of time.
- Carlzner was tested and found wanting, on ice for 11 of 17 scoring chances and all 3 goals against the Caps. A poor session for the shutdown pair of John Carlson and Karl Alzner, but they did combine to create that tying goal.
- On the opposite side of the rookie-performance spectrum stands Marcus Johansson. The baby Swede scored the first and second goals of his NHL playoff career and flirted with a third a few times. It’s as if at some point in February, Johansson started acting out Nick Backstrom’s ’09-’10 season.
- Mike Green was confident and capable throughout the game. His +4 SC differential (6-2) was the team’s best.
- And there’s little Michal Neuvirth, everybody. Unflappable for nearly 100 minutes.
Dodge. (Photo credit: Bruce Bennett)
- Let us speak no longer of last year. Alex Semin has showed up, and it’s exhilarating. And sometimes exasperating. But hey, that’s our Sasha and we love him for it.
- And congratulations to Neil’s BFF, Jason Chimera, for scoring the goal of his career. That was Chimmer doing his best Mike Knuble impersonation, a tribute perhaps to the team’s sidelined vet. Let’s hope Jason has many chances to tell the story of how he punished Henrik Lundqvist for that mistake.
This could have been the worst game of the year. In the first and second period, the Capitals simply were not playing Capitals hockey. It cost them dearly. Even some die-hard Caps fans had a hard time quelling those cynical and acerbic feelings from bubbling within. Those doubting fans have a new role model in head coach Bruce Boudreau, who generaled his troops with a cool hand after the second. The team that showed up in the third period was disciplined and exacting, driving pucks inexorably towards Lundvist’s net. The bad hits the Rangers had been leveling so viciously began to roll off the Caps’ shoulders. Once Alex Semin struck, we were treated to a parade of spectacular(ly ugly) hockey and those woefully missed hockey grins.
I want to leave you with a question: What do you think happened during that second intermission? Was it an F-bomb-laden tirade, a solemn speech with heads hung, or a inspiring address delivered like St. Crispin’s Day but with more bumbling? Please answer below.
Additional reporting by Neil Greenberg.