This guy. (Photo credit: Bruce Bennett)
The Washington Capitals went back to the dimly lit den of sin called Madison Square Garden on Monday night. Against the New York Rangers, with whom they were tied 2-2 in the series, the Caps struggled to muster the offense that had characterized their last couple games, but they did have a little traction on the power play. Unfortunately for them, however, the Rangers had more.
Anton Stralman got a softy on Braden Holtby in a dominant first period for the Rangers. The tide turned in the second period, and Brooks Laich evened it up with a sneaky snap after an offensive-zone faceoff.
John Carlson earned the lead with a barrage of slap shots on a third-period power play. But in the final 20 seconds of the game, Joel Ward’s high-sticking penalty gave Brad Richards the tying goal. With 7 freaking seconds left.
So we went to overtime once more, but it didn’t last long. Marc Staal ended it on the power play. Rangers beat Caps 3-2 (OT).
- Joel Ward, man. That penalty hurt, but I’m gonna give him a pass. Fencing with Hagelin like he was, it’s way too easy for a stick to ride up like it did. Goofs happen– even in the playoffs. With 20 seconds left. hweougweoguwe. One bad penalty has cost this team so much. We won’t know exactly how much for a few days.
- Braden Holtby‘s first goal against was a soft one, coming from outside through a screen that looked an awful lot like the Escape Goat. Still, if Holtby had controlled that puck, we’d all be singing happy songs right now. Instead it’s like Beck’s Sea Change up in here.
- It looked like the Rangers dominated this game. The shot totals were silly (26 to 10 after 40 minutes) and the Rags got the early lead, but the game was closer than it seemed. You can thank a defiant Caps blueliner squad for keeping New York on the periphery and some offensive gusto for creating scoring chances (many of which did not count as shots). The Rangers made their outside shots count, recording their first and the eventual game-winner in that style.
- The penalty kill was sterling for 59 minutes. Guys like Brooks Laich and Jay Beagle were stunning while playing a man down, gasting the flabber of a not-that-awesome New York PP until the final 10 seconds of the game. But it went bad. Oh so very bad.
- Nick Backstrom‘s third period breakaway backhand beat Henrik cleanly, but that stupid crossbar said, “away with you, puck!” Unrelated note: let’s increase the size of the net by like a quarter inch next season, mmk?
- After this series is over but before the handshakes, can Jason Chimera and Chris Kreider race end-to-end? My money is on the guy who didn’t get whistled for a phantom high-stick on Dennis Wideman.
- The Caps were egalitarian in the shot-blocking game, totaling 25 among 12 players, including the captain. Shots, however, were a more exclusive affair. The Caps were kept under 20 in regulation, with Brooks Laich and Jason Chimera accounting for half of them. Alex Ovechkin had not a one.
- Despite a rough season in his own end, John Carlson‘s slapshot was a bright spot in the regular season campaign. Now, in the second season, Captain America’s slapshot should have been the GWG. Should have. Should have.
Series record: Rangers 3, Capitals 2
I’ve never seen anything like that. The Capitals had a strangehold on the Rangers with precious seconds left in the game. One bad penalty and a worse penalty kill lost them the lead and the game in the space of two minutes.
Explosive decompression. The air got sucked out of the Capitals in the blink of an eye. The guys have to feel like they got the wind knocked out of them right now. What should have been a cakewalk to the conference finals is now something much different.
There’s a shadow hanging over Wednesday’s game six. We knew it would be an elimination game, but we didn’t think it would be for our guys.
How are they going to react to this loss? To have the victory on the tip of their sticks only to see it snatched in a blink– it’s gotta be humbling for them. Will Braden Holtby withstand the anguish? Will Alex Ovechkin return to prominence? Will Jason Chimera regain his step?
Shake it off. There’s a lot of hockey left to be played. See you Wednesday night.