The Washington Capitals have pulled the New York Rangers for their opponent in the second round of the playoffs (check the schedule here). This will be the sixth time in history that the Caps and Rangers will square off in a best-of-seven series. But unlike recent years, the Rangers are no underdogs. They finished in first place in the Eastern Conference, just barely missing the President’s Trophy after a loss to some no-name team in the final game of the regular season. Meanwhile the Caps are the scrappy team that no one expected to slay the dragon in round one. It’s going to be a big series between two old Patrick Division rivals.

In preparation, we peaked back at last year’s quarterfinal series between the Caps and Rangers in hopes that it might give us a glimpse at the future. No matter their predictive value, these five games were a freaking blast. Join me for some good memories behind the jump.

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Tonight, I was watching the Sabres/Flyers game on Versus when the above commercial popped up on the screen. Talk about furious. I’d rather have Gary Bettman come to my house, dip his hand in a bucket of ice water and backhand me across the face than involuntarily have to watch this goal again. But there Dubinsky was on my TV. In all his mustached-glory. Raising his arms triumphantly, while Neuvy hangs his head in utter defeat. What a great juxtaposition.

I have two questions for the NHL after being forced to watch this. First, if they don’t want to risk showing favoritism to certain teams, why show goals from this playoff year? The point of the promotion is to show the NHL’s rich history. Have they already run out of moments from the past? Don’t they think that fans’ feelings might be just a little raw one day after a loss? Second, how is this goal any better than the marker Alex Semin scored in overtime in Game 1? So Dubi can get a commercial, but Sasha Minor can’t? Sure, maybe I’m being a little sensitive here, but this just rubbed me the wrong way. I get what you’re trying to do NHL marketing team, but please go back to the drawing board.

Actor Michael Douglas takes in the game with his daughter Carys (Photo credit: Bruce Bennett)

Sigh. (Photo credit: Kathy Willens)

This could be the pivotal game in the series. Up 2-0 Washington had the chance to all but put the Rangers away. But all it took to derail those plans, however, was one bad bounce off Karl Alzner’s shoulder.

The first period was scoreless and fairly even with Caps holding a 5-4 advantage in scoring chances. Despite not having a lead after 20 minutes of play the frame had to be considered a positive for Washington after killing off New York’s one and a half minute five-on-three power play late.

The Rangers opened the scoring at 5:30 in the second period when Erik Christensen threaded the needle, firing a sharp-angle wrister from the corner over Michal Neuvirth’s shoulder on the man-advantage. The Capitals remained down by one until Bruce Boudreau juggled the lines, putting Alex Ovechkin, Jason Arnott and Mike Knuble together. It would pay dividends just minutes later when Arnott fired a shot from the corner before Ovechkin potted it home to tie the game.

Eight minutes into the third, Vinny Prospal gave New York a 2-1 advantage, putting the rebound from Eric Marc Staal’s blast from the point into the back of the net. But when in comes to scoring gritty goals in front of the net, no one can outdo Knuuuuuuuble, as he whacked home the loose puck after Nicklas Backstrom’s one-time rocket on the power play. You might want to stop reading now.

With just 1:39 remaining in the game Brandon Dubinsky fired shot on Neuvirth, hitting Alzner. Before Neuvirth could react, six ounces of vulcanized rubber were in the back of the net. The Czech netminder hung his head in dejection and Ovechkin lay face down on the ice. Rangers shock Caps, 3-2.

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The Mess at MSG: Caps beat Rangers 5-3

Brooks Laich started and ended the Caps scoring tonight.

(Photo credit: Frank Franklin II)

MG52 unleashes the fury! (Photo credit: Frank Franklin II)

Brooks Laich with the book-end goals. (Photo credit: Frank Franklin II)

Well, that was an ugly one. The Washington Capitals’ first appointment with the New York Rangers, hosted in the majestically gloomy Madison Square Garden, had all of the poetry of an alleyway brawl. 28 penalty minutes were distributed in the first period alone. Mike Green dropped gloves for crying out loud!

The Rangers got up to an early lead when Brian Boyle beat Jeff Schultz at the circle. All night the Capitals defense was spotty, and it seemed the Superfriends could not make up for it. Every time the Caps tied the score, the Rangers pulled ahead again. But the Caps found strength where we faithful knew it would be: depth. Brooks Laich recorded a pair, Mike Knuble finished the funk, Matt Hendricks provided the GWG, and even lovable John Erskine got on the board. Henrik Lundqvist lay defeated. Caps beat Rangers 5-3.

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