Every year, the New York Rangers are a dangerous team in the playoffs because of Henrik Lundqvist. One of this decades’s best goaltenders, The King always has the ability to steal a series by himself.
Just maybe not this year.
Thursday, Lundqvist gave up four goals on 18 shots against the Pittsburgh Penguins, forcing Alain Vigneault to pull him for Antti Raanta during a TV timeout in the second period.
He looked like he wanted to cry.
Photo: Greg Fiume
It’s not everyday that a hockey player lands a long feature in Esquire Magazine, but Swedish hair model Henrik Lundqvist is a different breed. In the article, we learn that The King describes his look as clean, but with an edge. Lundqvist also talks about why good clothes can be a gateway drug into the world of watches.
The part I want to point you to is where the Rangers goaltender is asked who is the toughest player he’s ever faced. His answer: Alex Ovechkin.
Photo credit: Nick Wass
Braden Holtby is that good. He has been the best goalie of the playoffs, posting a .951 save percentage through 11 games. But on Sunday night, the New York Rangers offense finally broke through. They jumped out to a 4-1 lead before the Capitals almost pulled off an unbelievable comeback. For the first time this postseason, we saw Holtby crack. Washington’s faith in him, however, is unshaken. They were not interested in talking about Henrik Lundqvist, who turned aside 42 shots in Washington’s one-goal defeat.
“Our goalie’s better,” Evgeny Kuznetsov, defiant in his postgame media scrum, said. “I don’t know what you want to listen from my mouth, but our goalie’s better.”
Photo credit: Bruce Bennett
Alex Ovechkin has never made it past the second round of the playoffs. It’s a trite fact, but unavoidable. He’s been in the NHL since 2005, with his window as a primary goal-scorer closing. In 10 years, he has yet to win a Stanley Cup. Some core players around him, like Mike Green, are likely to leave this summer or within the next few years. This may be Ovechkin’s best chance to win a Cup as the undisputed leader of the Washington Capitals. Ovechkin seems to know that. In this year’s Division Final against the Rangers, DC’s captain has put on an astonishing display of talent and dedication, nearly winning games for the Capitals off his play alone. On Saturday, he came up short, but it was another immortal individual performance.
“He’s a force,” coach Barry Trotz said. “No question.”
Midway through the third period, Washington was down 3-1, having just given up a crushing goal to Rangers forward Derick Brassard. Just 90 seconds before Rangers fans were to begin their eight-minute mark “Ovi Sucks! Ovi Sucks! Ovi Sucks!” onslaught, Ovechkin bumbled down the ice with three Rangers on him. He knifed straight through Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh, New York’s top defenders, as the two hopelessly whacked at Ovi. Falling to his knees, he let off a perfectly placed wrist shot that went top shelf on Henrik Lundqvist. It was a goal that was nearly impossible to imagine another player in the NHL scoring. It was utter brilliance, under immense pressure, on a huge stage. Save for the cheers of Capitals players, MSG fell silent.
He scored while falling like this. Really.
Holy hell. In game two, Alex Ovechkin scored one of the greatest goals of his career. Skating into the New York Rangers’ zone, Ovechkin skates through two defenders. Then as he’s falling down to the ice, the Russian machine rips a shot to the top left corner past future Hall of Fame goaltender Henrik Lundqvist.
Ward smiling after Derek Stepan tries punching him.
The Washington Capitals won game one at Madison Square Garden in surprisingly easy fashion– though it took a last-second goal to win. The first twenty minutes of game two have been way different.
But I’m an optimist, so let’s focus on the awesome things that happened in the first period first.
Photo: Jared Sibler
The Capitals take a 1-nothing lead into the intermission thanks to Alex Ovechkin’s latest mindblowing goal.
In a late-period power play (Jay Beagle was held by Dom Moore), Alex Ovechkin gained the zone. As soon as he hit the face-off circle, Ovi loosed an uncanny dart.
Photo credit: Jared Silber
So, it’s the Rangers again. For the fifth time in seven seasons, the Washington Capitals will square off against the folks from Madison Square Garden in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. These series have produced signature moments in Capitals history, such as Sergei Fedorov‘s game seven winner in 2009, and crushing defeats, like when the Rangers outlasted the Capitals by just one goal in game seven of the second round in 2012, booking a spot in the Eastern Conference Final. But, as is their pattern this year, the Washington Capitals will tell you this team is different. They don’t pay attention to the past.
“All that old stuff, get rid of it,” head coach Barry Trotz, in his first year with the Capitals, said. “Let’s look to a new era. Let’s build something.”
The same day Boston Bruins enforcer Shawn Thornton was fined for squirting his water bottle at P.K. Subban, New York Rangers goaltender and male model Henrik Lunqvist also got naughty with his Gatorade bottle. The recipient of the liquid hate this time was soon-to-be-named MVP Sidney Crosby, so this highlight goes to 11.
Russian Machine Never Breaks is not associated with the Washington Capitals; Monumental Sports, the NHL, or its properties. Not even a little bit.
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