Photo credit: Scott Levy
I don’t know how you guys are coping, but I am doing poorly. A playoff series between the Washington Capitals and New York Rangers seems constitutionally incapable of being stress-free. Game three’s penalty problems continued in game four, and the Caps struggled with special teams and other complex ideas such as shooting and passing. The Rangers seemed to be able to summon a lead on a whim, leaving the Caps to mount a comeback pretty much throughout.
Despite the Caps getting better (and more desperate) as the clock wound down, the Rangers won another game on home ice.
Rangers beat Caps 4-3. Series is tied 2-2.
- Braden Holtby dun goofed. Handling a loose puck, Holtby eyed a saucer pass to neutral, but instead found Pyatt Pree‘s stick hanging in the air. Brad Richards got on the puck and scored on a mostly vacant net to make it 1-0. Holtby’s been both lauded and criticized for his eagerness to play the puck, and he’s been burned more than once for it. This was the worst of al. This was worse than what Jonathan Quick did last week. Because it happened to real people.
- The Capitals’ first period power plays were rancid. The Caps allowed three shorthanded chances, the third one leading to total troublefunk in front of Braden Holtby. Martin Erat and Alex Ovechkin closed in on Derek Stepan– Erat reaching from behind while Ovi was picking up steam. The three collided in a tangle, with Erat landing wrist-first in the net and Ovechkin skating back to the bench before getting beckoned to the box. A hooking penalty for Erat was reasonable, but — inconceivably– Ovechkin was given the old wild-card penalty: charging. Pierre McGuire, who has yet to master the name Oleksy, proclaimed it an obvious headshot. It was not, but the Caps still had to kill a 5 on 3– which they did excellently, but the penalty was more fuel to the Gee willikers! These refs are atrocious! fire. Erat did not return to the game, replaced on the second line by the similarly awesome Eric Fehr.
- From the circle, Carl Hagelin got a knuckley puck past Holtby’s glove side halfway through the game– at which the Caps had just 5 shots on goal during even strength. D’oh.
- But thank goodness for Joel Ward and Mathieu Perreault, who teamed up to put the Caps on the board. Ward had some pretty moves to put the puck on net, and then Perreault crashed it like a tiny French Canadian Knuble.
- The Caps tied it before the end of the second period with a nifty Troy Brouwer backhand while the Rangers got a bit indolent on the breakout. Brouwer was due, and it was greatly appreciated.
- After the Caps improved their possession (as measured by even-strength shot attempts) through the last three games, the Rangers stole it back decisively on Wednesday. Even with a man-up, the Caps were unable to generate offense as the Rangers refused to take the bait of Washington’s fancy passes. The Caps were thus kept on the outskirts and generated no real power play chances.
- A Charmin soft interference penalty on Jason Chimera at the buzzer of the second period led to a Girardi PPG in the first minute of the third, putting Caps back in their one-goal hole, but only temporarily as Marcus Johansson’s inability to clear the zone gave NYR’s Stepan space and time to make it 4-2.
- Ovi was pretty much nullified. Most of his (scarce) shot attempts were blocked, and he — and this is weird– seemed to get hit more than he hit others. I’m not really used to that, but hats off to the Rags for sticking it to him. I’m not sure they’ll be able to do that back in Verizon Center, where the Caps will get last line change.
- Karl Alzner kept it close with an outside slapper (that have got a piece of Perry) with just a bit over 12 minutes left. Because apparently this series was too relaxing for some people.
Aaaalright, the Caps may have gotten a bit off their game there.
You can chalk some up to the refs, but we can’t pretend like this game was stolen from the Caps. Mysterious decisions on defense and some bad moves on the breakout sort of doomed the effort. The Rangers won the physical game and seemed to have figured out the Oates’ power play. That might make the rest of this series difficult. Or at least interesting. It’s as if the gauntlet has been thrown.
That doesn’t mean it’s undoable. The Rangers have no advantage whatsoever. All they have done is restored the series to neutral. The Caps own on home ice, and they’ll have to flaunt it to win this series.
Friday. Be ready.
Okay not the psyche-up song I wanted. I’ll try again later.