This is his Ranger-killing face. (Photo credit: Patrick McDermott)
Braden Holtby has not lost back-to-back games in the NHL in 29 games now. The Caps are the first team ever to win four straight games following overtime losses.
Let’s talk about resilience. Two wins this series following some of the most heartbreaking losses in recent memory, two instances of the Caps picking themselves back up and putting themselves back together. Two times when it wasn’t just talk. For the second time this postseason, we’re going to seven games.
The Great 8 scored on the power play, 88 seconds in. I could not make this up if I tried. Chimera finished off a strong play from Semin to make it — stay with me — an actual two-goal lead. It lasted for most of the game, but unfortunately someone on NBC said “shutout”, so Marian Gaborik scored. Caps beat Rangers, 2-1.
- It was…a pretty good start. Anton Stralman got two minutes for not being as fast as Jason Chimera, and the Caps executed a PP sequence that had previously only existed in your dreams. As we know, the scoring of the first goal has become the most important event in the entire universe, so we all breathed a sigh of relief to see the Caps go up early, but luckily the team decided to continue to play the rest of the game. They had The Fire tonight, and clearly had no intention of going down easy.
- Some #fancystats from @hiredgun0213, 52-19-8 on the PP…5 + 2 + 1 + 9 + 8 = 25, who put them on the PP in the first place. Spooky.
- Mystery of Jay Beagle, Parts One and Two: Beagle was not at practice, which was significantly a bigger deal than it would have been, say, six months ago. Dale Hunter quickly soothed our concerns, stating that Beagle was in tonight, simply “resting his legs”. Cut to pregame warmups, dramatic reveal: Beagle was not in. Beagle was in fact very, very out, prompting the first Jeff Halpern appearance since March 23. Just when faceoffs thought they were safe.
- Tim Thomas probably still thinks those flashy, unnecessary Holtby glove saves are funny. Braden Holtby thinks Tim Thomas being out of the playoffs is funny. Either way, it’s a fabulous way to get shooters to think twice about going glove-side, while the Caps shot blockers take away the low. Carry on, Braden.
- Slight threat to Ovechkin’s future children from Brandon Prust after the Ranger failed at hockey for a shift or so and resorted to cheap shots instead, sticking Ovechkin right in the produce section. “It’s recoverable,” said John Walton, tactfully. “It’s not a whole lot of fun, though. We’ll leave it at that.”
- The Verizon Center was in fine voice tonight — when Keith Aucion missed a point-blank chance in the second period, you all sounded like you were being murdered. It was excellent.
- The PK was once again the most unassailable of solid objects, despite being without Beagle. The penalty killers never let us down (except for that one time that we are not talking about). Their magnum opus was a beautiful four-minute kill late in the second period tonight to preserve a two goal-lead. Heroism. There will be books and songs written about these penalty killers, there will be busts of them sitting on people’s mantels.
- You didn’t misread that, I said two-goal lead. For the first time in these playoffs, the Caps were able to get and hold a two-goal lead for more than three minutes — in fact, they held it until the last 50 seconds of the game.
This postseason is all about the adjectives that you never thought would be applied to the Washington Capitals. Resilient. Gritty. Defensive. Committed. Here we are on the edge of another Game Seven, once again flying directly in the face of any conventional logic about what this team was expected to accomplish. It’s been breathlessly intense and terrifying. You have new ulcers that you can probably name after defensemen.
But the Caps are still alive. Isn’t that amazing, and ridiculous? Prepare yourself for the cardiac stress test of Saturday, and you might yet come out of this alive, too.