The Rangers head back to Washington for Game 5 against the Capitals in their first round playoff series. The Caps lead 3-1 in the series. It may be cliche, but it’s a must win for the Rangers today. Puck drops at 3 p.m. or more like 3:20 p.m. because the game can be seen nationally on NBC. MSG will have a postgame show following the game.
So after the second period on Wednesday, I was thinking about writing about the Rangers offensive explosion. I was thinking about writing how the MSG crowd was amazing, especially the “can you hear us?” chant.
And then the third period happened. The Capitals tied the game at 3-3. We went to one overtime, and no one scored. We went to a second overtime. And we were getting close to a third overtime when the puck headed toward Henrik Lundqvist, who was going to cover it. But then Gaborik poked it away, turned it over and the Capitals scored.
The third period sort of numbed me and put me in a bit of disbelief. How do you blow a three-goal lead. More importantly, how did this team blow a three-goal lead in the third period. The same team that had been undefeated the entire season when holding a lead headed to the third period.
But I was completely dumbfounded watching the winning goal unfold. My jaw dropped and I sat here just staring. I wasn’t angry. I wasn’t upset. I was numb. What was a player like Gaborik thinking, poking the puck away from his goaltender? It’s not like Gaborik is a rookie.
And I remained dumbfounded through the next day and still, in some ways, feel the same way. It’s probably why I’m having a hard time getting excited or feeling anything about today’s game.
The Rangers certainly could win today and the rest of the series and shock the Capitals. Do I count on it? No. I don’t think I ever did.
But here’s the interesting thing — this series has gone the exact opposite of the 2009 series. The Rangers went up 2-0. The Caps won game 3 before the Rangers grabbed the 3-1 lead in Game 4. We all know how that series ended up. Winning three straight games, though, will be much tougher for the Rangers.
Another tidbit of note — The Caps have only held one lead in regulation this series. They the Rangers were ahead in Game 1 before they tied it and sent the game to overtime. Game 2 was the only time the Caps led in regulation during the series. Game 3 they tied it twice, but never led. The Caps tied the game in the third and didn’t take the lead until overtime. I think it points to how much more evenly matched the Rangers and Caps have been in this series than we’d think.
The Rangers are certainly saying the right things, including Brandon Dubinsky’s comments about staying confident. But the Rangers need to actually practice what they preach. Game 4 could be a demoralizing loss, even if they say the right things, so we’ll have to wait and see how they actually come and play.
Meanwhile, Andrew Gross from The Record had this great quote from coach John Tortorella: “It took me until yesterday afternoon to swallow the loss because that was a tough one. It was one of the tougher ones I’ve lived through. But once you swallow it and you puke it out, I just have such a good feeling. I just feel good about our club.”
Quite possibly the best Torts quote of the season. Topping rah rah rah, maybe. Just maybe.
Rangers 1, Capitals 2 OT (Game 1)
Matt Gilroy scored early in the third period to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead. But just when we were getting comfortable, confident in Lundqvist and the defense, not worried there would be an overtime, Alex Ovechkin scored as the Capitals crowded and crashed the net. The play was reviewed, and the replay showed the puck squirt by Lundqvist. We headed to overtime, and the Rangers looked tired in the second half of the extra period. On a bad change and then a bad clear, the puck ended up on Alexander Semin’s stick (insert childish joke here), who scored the winning goal. Caps lead the series 1-0.
Rangers 0, Capitals 2 (Game 2)
The Rangers came out strong in the first period on Friday, but they didn’t get the puck in the net. And in the second period, the Rangers couldn’t keep up their intensity. The Capitals took advantage of the Rangers mistakes. Jason Chimera scored a little more than two minutes into the second to give the Caps a 1-0 lead. Then Jason “Once a Devil Always a Devil” Arnott scored about two minutes later. The score would remain 2-0 as Neuvirth notched the shutout.
Capitals 2, Rangers 3 (Game 3)
The Rangers and Caps kept it scoreless for the first period again, but then the scoring started in the second period. But every time the Rangers scored, the Capitals had an answer. First Christensen scored in the second period, but Ovechkin answered with a late second period goal. And that’s when the conspiracy started. It appeared the Rangers scored as the second period closed, but it was waved off after a review. But everyone was convinced it was a goal because NBC didn’t give us a good enough shot of the play. In the third, Vinny Prospal put the Blueshirts ahead again 2-1, but Mike Knuble answered for the Capitals. Just when we thought we were headed to overtime and the nerves were on the rise, it was the attack of the stache. Dubinsky scored the game winner with under two minutes remaining.
Capitals 4, Rangers 3 OT (Game 4)
After another scoreless first period, Artem Anisimov scored the first goal about five minutes into the second period. It was a bit of a wacky goal, deflecting in off a Capitals defender, to put the Rangers up 1-0. Then Gaborik and Dubinsky went back-to-back, scoring seven seconds apart. It was one second off a team playoff record. Rangers led 3-0. But the Caps came roaring back in the third on a goal from Semin (*insert joke here*) and two Marcus Johansson goals. The Rangers and Caps went to one overtime and then a second, only the fifth double overtime game in Rangers history. And Jason Chimera scored the winner on the most dumbfounding play of the game.
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Lets go Rangers!