Green Day – In what was about as exciting a 1-0 overtime game as you’ll see, the Washington Capitals eked out the win over the New York Rangers on a Mike Green power play goal in the extra session. The Caps’ Saturday afternoon triumph puts them up 2-0 on the Rangers in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series between the two teams.
Both teams played well, both narrowly missed getting on the board earlier and both got great goaltending. Both were strong in five-on-five (and in four-on-four) play, but for the second time in as many games, the Caps had the special teams edge and it made all the difference.
“The penalty kill did a great job tonight,” says Caps coach Adam Oates. “I think both teams played very good hockey tonight. Not a lot of shots, 0-0, both goalies played good. Really good hockey.”
Needing a win in the first two games at Verizon Center to wrest home ice away from the Caps in the series, the Rangers had three good opportunities to get on the board first in the game’s first period.
An Anton Stralman shot from the right point hit the right goalpost early in the game, and Caps goalie Braden Holtby was also instrumental in keeping the Rangers in check in the first period. Holtby stopped a Michael Del Zotto bid from the slot just past the four-minute mark of the first, and later in the frame he bailed out his defense after a turnover, stoning Rangers center Derek Stepan on a backhander from in tight near the midpoint of the period.
At the other end of the ice, New York’s Henrik Lundqvist had the answer for everything the Caps sent in his direction as well. The Caps had a couple good looks on their lone power play of regulation, a first-period hi-sticking call on Derek Dorsett. But Lundqvist’s best work came just after that power play ended when he went left to right to deny Mathieu Perreault’s back door deflection bid with just under two minutes remaining in the first.
Early in the second, Lundqvist made a blocker stop on Caps right wing Alex Ovechkin after the Washington captain carved his way around two New York defenders. Midway through the frame, Lundqvist got help from Ryan McDonagh’s stick when the Ranger defender poke-checked Caps winger Marcus Johansson on the doorstep after a perfect feed from Ovechkin.
The Caps’ top six managed a few good chances off the rush in the latter stages of Saturday’s game, but either made one pass too many or ran out of real estate before deciding to shoot or pass.
Caps defenseman Steve Oleksy carried the puck into the attack zone midway through the third, and as he reached the goal line he threaded a sublime pass to Jason Chimera in front. Lundqvist stopped Chimera’s one-timer, and also halted Eric Fehr’s backhand bid on the rebound.
Holtby sealed off a Ryan Callahan backhander from in tight early in the third, but New York’s best chance to win the game came late in regulation when left wing Rick Nash sliced his way around the Caps’ defense and drove in on Holtby. Caps winger Troy Brouwer slashed Nash to give the Rangers their second power play of the day, and as he did so the big Blueshirt’s shot rang the pipe on the short side.
The Rangers were denied as much as a shot on net during that late power play in regulation.
It appeared as though the Blueshirts might get a second man-advantage opportunity in short succession when the puck went off Caps defenseman Karl Alzner’s stick and over the glass in the defensive zone. But after the officials conferred, it was ruled that Alzner had not “shot” the puck over the glass, he had merely deflected it.
According to Rule 63.2, paragraph three: “When any player, while in his defending zone, shoots or bats (using his hand or his stick) the puck directly (non-deflected) out of the playing surface, except where there is no glass, a penalty shall be assessed for delaying the game. When the puck is shot into the players’ bench, the penalty will not apply. When the puck is shot over the glass ‘behind’ the players’ bench, the penalty will be assessed.”
Alzner’s call from the governor came via the parenthetical “non-deflected” qualifier.
In the second minute of overtime, the Rangers got another power play chance when Oleksy was guilty of lifting the disc over the glass in his own end. The Caps killed that one efficiently as well, thanks to some stellar work from Fehr. First, the Caps winger created a shorthanded chance in tight, then he got back to the defensive zone and laid out to block Derick Brassard’s slapper from the left point.
In its final two power play opportunities of the game, New York missed the net twice and Washington penalty killers blocked five shot tries.
About two minutes after the Caps completed their clutch kill in overtime, New York was guilty of an icing call. Rangers coach John Tortorella used his timeout. Stepan won the ensuing defensive zone draw for New York, and there was another face-off in the New York end just 26 seconds later.
At that juncture, Tortorella put Stralman on the ice for defenseman Dan Girardi, but left McDonagh – who had been on the ice for 2:03 continuously at that point – out on the sheet. Backstrom won that draw, and the Caps’ top line and top defensive pair went on to have a key offensive zone shift, teeing up six shots in less than a minute and getting three of them on net.
When a weary McDonagh finally collected the puck and tried to clear, it went over the glass for a delay of game call and Washington’s first power play chance in more than 51 minutes. By the time McDonagh went to the box, he had been on the ice for 3:04 straight.
That one shift ended up accounting for more than one-eighth of McDonagh’s ice time for the game (23:54).
Brouwer had a glorious one-on-one chance early in the power play, but Lundqvist stopped him twice, getting the rebound as well. Washington then moved the puck around the attack zone, and Green and Mike Ribeiro played catch with the disc up high in the New York end.
Ribeiro closed to the top of the right circle and faked a shot. Callahan bought what Ribeiro was selling, going down on the ice and out of the shooting lane and giving the Caps a brief 5-on-3 look. Ribeiro flipped the puck to Green, who teed up a one-timer from center point. Lundqvist reacted with his glove hand, but the shot grazed Stepan and went bar down over the goaltender’s opposite shoulder, on the stick side.
“He [does such a great job drawing guys to him,” says Green of Ribeiro, “and obviously they are on Ovi, so I just happened to be open and my goal was to get it by the first guy and try to hit the net.”
Dating back to the regular season, today marked the third Saturday in the last four in which Washington won a game on a power play in overtime. Green has seven career game-winning goals during the regular season in his NHL career, second on Washington’s all-time list. But today was his first overtime game-winner in the playoffs.
“He’s obviously a huge part of our team,” says Oates. “We talk about this a lot. It’s a reason why I don’t want Mike to try too hard to be a scorer during the game because we need him to have the poise back there at a key moment when it’s a big power play, place is going crazy, there’s electricity. You need guys out there who are calm. That’s one of his gifts.”
Washington had 75 shot attempts and 38 shots on net to 57 tries and 24 on net for New York. The Capitals held the Rangers without a shot on goal for the final 17:43 of Saturday’s game, a span that included two New York power plays.
Game 3 is Monday at New York’s Madison Square Garden.
“It’s tough,” says Callahan. “It’s tough to lose in overtime especially in a game like this but at the same time, we’ve got two [games] at home now. We have to take care of business at home. We lost two [games] on the road and we’ve just got to take care of business in our building now.”
Whitewash – The shutout was the first of Holtby’s Stanley Cup playoff career and it came in his 16th start.
Holtby’s shutout is just the second 1-0 whitewash in Washington’s Stanley Cup playoff history. Olie Kolzig authored the first, blanking Pittsburgh at Verizon Center on April 12, 2001. The Caps have been on the wrong end of two 1-0 playoff shutouts, one against Lundqvist at Verizon Center on April 18, 2009 and the other at the hands of Boston’s Tim Thomas (in overtime) in last spring’s playoff opener on April 12, 2012.
Those two 1-0 shutout losses are the last two whitewashes the Caps have absorbed in the postseason.
Saturday Night Special – When Holtby is between the pipes, he is rarely aware of what day it is, so this stat is more quirky than meaningful. But over the course of his NHL career, Holtby is 11-1-1 in 13 regular season Saturday starts. He has three shutouts, a 1.96 GAA and a .935 save pct. in those games.
In six career Saturday starts in the Stanley Cup playoffs, Holtby is now 4-2 with a shutout, a 1.70 GAA and a .935 save pct.
Blueliners Beating Blueshirts – Green became just the second Caps defenseman ever to score a game-winning goal in overtime in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Rod Langway’s overtime goal on April 25, 1990 gave the Capitals a 4-3 win over the Rangers in Game 4 of the Patrick Division final series between the two teams. The Caps went on to take that series in five games.
Futile Forty – Saturday’s game marked the first time in 50 games this season (including regular season and playoffs) that both the Capitals and their opponents failed to score in the game’s first 40 minutes.
It also marked the third time in the last four games the Caps have been blanked in the game’s first 40 minutes. Washington did not score until the third period in each of its final two home games of the 2012-13 regular season, on April 25 against Ottawa and on April 27 against Boston. The Caps lost in overtime to the Senators and defeated the Bruins in the extra session.
Tough Town – If New York is to win this series, it will have to win at leas one game at Verizon Center. The Rangers have had a difficult recent history in the postseason on Phone Booth ice. Including Saturday’s game, New York has lost nine of its last 10 postseason visits to the District.
The Rangers have scored more than one goal only once in those 10 games, that occurred in their lone victory in that span, a 3-2 triple-overtime victory on May 5, 2012. New York has been outscored by a combined 23-9 in those 10 games.
The Blueshirts are 1-for-29 (3.4%) on the power play in those 10 contests, and they are 26-for-33 (78.9%) on the penalty kill.
Fresh Blood – New York’s lineup got a significant boost for Saturday’s Game 2. Center Brian Boyle and right wing Dorsett came back into the lineup for the Rangers, seeing their first action of the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs.
Despite spending four minutes in the box (he also incurred a diving minor as part of coincidental calls on both clubs in the second period), Dorsett skated 15:17 on Saturday in what was his Rangers debut. Dorsett came to New York in the big deadline day swap that sent Marian Gaborik to Columbus on April 3. Dorsett suffered a broken collarbone with the Blue Jackets on March 7 and hadn’t played since.
Dorsett had seven hits and two shots on net in Saturday’s game.
For Dorsett, Saturday’s game marked the fourth playoff game of his NHL career and his first since April 2009 when he got into three Stanley Cup playoff games for Columbus against Detroit at the end of his rookie season in the circuit.
Boyle logged 11:29 on the night, recording a shot on goal and six hits. He won four of nine face-offs in the contest.
“They played well,” says Rangers coach John Tortorella of Dorsett and Boyle. “We changed the lines to try to create some more offense and also due to some matchups.”
Chris Kreider and Kris Newbury were scratched in favor of the two newcomers. Kreider skated 8:23 and Newbury just 5:24 on Thursday’s Game 1.
Down On The Farm – The AHL Hershey Bears were in action at Giant Center on Saturday, seeking to sweep away the Providence Bruins in the best-of-five opening round playoff series between the two teams. Hershey fell short, losing a 5-1 decision.
Michael Latta put the Bears on the board first with his second of the playoffs at 3:44 of the first, but Providence scored five unanswered to salt the game away. Philipp Grubauer made 22 saves in the Hershey nets in the loss.
The game marked the pro debut of Tom Wilson, Washington’s first-round (16th overall) choice in the 2012 NHL Draft. Wilson was a minus-1 and had one shot on goal in the game. He was issued a tripping minor in the first period and given a roughing minor as part of coincidental calls in the third.
Hershey now leads the series 2-1. Game 4 is at Giant Center on Sunday; the Bears would clinch it and move on with a win.
Down a level, the ECHL Reading Royals opened their Eastern Conference final series against the Cincinnati Cyclones with a 5-4 win in double-overtime on Friday night at Sovereign Center in Reading. Reading leads the series, 1-0.
After the two teams traded goals for the first 60 minutes, defenseman Bobby Shea won it for the Royals at 9:37 of the second overtime period. Even Barlow scored twice for the Royals; T.J. Syner and Dominic Jalbert also tallied for Reading. Riley Gill made 50 saves in nearly 90 minutes of work to earn the victory in goal.
Game 2 is at Sovereign Center on Sunday.
By The Numbers – John Carlson led the Caps with 27:07 in ice time and with 4:14 in shorthanded ice time … Carlson and Ovechkin each teed up 10 shots to pace the Caps and each got seven on net to lead the team … Oleksy’s eight hits led the Capitals … Carlson led Washington with four blocked shots … Matt Hendricks won four of five (80%) of his face-offs in the game … Callahan led the Rangers with five shots on goal and eight hits … Girardi led New York with five blocked shots … Brassard won nine of 14 (64%) face-offs.