Perfect Game – Rangers center Derick Brassard scored the game’s lone goal midway through the second period and New York netminder Henrik Lundqvist pitched a 1-0 shutout against the Capitals in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinal series between Washington and the Rangers. New York’s win evens the series and sends the two teams back to the District on Monday for a decisive Game 7.
Washington has played 211 Stanley Cup playoff games in its history, and Sunday’s Game 6 marked a pair of firsts for the Capitals in their three-decade playoff history. It marked the first time the Caps have had zero power plays in a game in which their opponent had five or more; the Rangers had five extra-man opportunities on Sunday.
Sunday’s Game 6 also marked the first time the Caps have ever been involved in either side of a “perfect game” in their Stanley Cup playoff history, a game in which one team – in this case the Rangers – shutout its opponent and was so extraordinarily gentlemanly in the process so as not to incur a single shorthanded situation during the entirety of the contest. Maybe it wasn't up there with Don Larsen's perfect game heroics for the Yankees, but it was an unblemished afternoon from a New York standpoint.
“It killed our momentum,” notes Caps right wing Troy Brouwer of Washington spending so much of the game on the penalty kill. “I thought we were really good in the first until we started taking penalties and spent half the first period killing them off, letting them get momentum and letting their building get excited. Then they came out in the second period and scored the goal and we took more penalties.”
The first half of the first period was relatively uneventful, but Washington put itself in peril over the final half of the first.
The Caps got into penalty trouble in the latter half of the first frame, taking three minors in a span of just 7:15. Jack Hillen went off for roughing New York’s Ryan Callahan at 10:01 of the first, giving the Rangers the game’s first power play. Hillen’s crime was pushing Callahan in retaliation to the issuance of a surreptitious elbow to his own head from the Blueshirts’ captain. New York managed two shots on net and another two that missed wide during that initial extra-man opportunity.
Washington had strong scoring chances from Eric Fehr and from Alex Ovechkin on consecutive shifts, but as he did all afternoon, Lundqvist had the answer.
Ovechkin also had an impressive defensive-zone shift in the latter stages of the first, blocking two shots while Caps defenseman John Erskine was without his stick.
Caps defenseman Karl Alzner flipped the puck over the glass at the 16-minute mark of the second to put the Caps down a man for the second time. Just past the midway point of that kill, Washington forward Eric Fehr was sent off for an elbowing call on Derick Brassard, giving the Rangers their third 5-on-3 power play opportunity of the series. Each of the three New York two-man advantages has been 44 seconds or more in length.
The Caps escaped the first without giving up a goal, which was progress. Washington has been outscored 4-1 in the first period during the series.
New York drew first – and only – blood just before the midpoint of the period. Washington had been spending a bit too much time in its own end – the Caps had just survived a strong Rangers flurry less than a minute earlier – and it was unable to corral and clear a puck off the wall in the defensive zone. New York took possession and reversed it to the left point, where John Moore passed to Brassard at center point. The Rangers’ center faked a shot, then fired. The puck appeared to glance off Caps’ defenseman Steve Oleksy and past Washington goalie Braden Holtby for the game’s lone goal.
Through the game’s first 40 minutes, New York owned a 57-36 advantage in shot attempts and a 46-36 advantage in even-strength shot bids. Perhaps because of the first-period penalty box parade, Washington never seemed able to establish a regular rhythm with its lines and was unable to replicate the sustained offensive zone domination it has maintained through much of the series at even strength.
“It’s very difficult,” notes Caps coach Adam Oates. “At the end of the day, it’s the same things we talk about. The guys that we use to kill [penalties], the trickle-down minutes affect other guys and some guys sit on the bench who don’t kill penalties. It makes it hard for them to get into their game.”
The Caps were able to establish a bit more in the way of offensive wherewithal in the third, but not enough to seriously threaten Lundqvist or to draw a penalty on the Rangers. The New York netminder made noteworthy stops on Ovechkin, a Mike Ribeiro backhander, and on a Fehr wrister off the rush with less than four minutes left.
Washington was whistled for two more minors in the final frame, a cheesy cross-checking call on Joel Ward in the offensive zone and a cross-checking minor on Mike Green.
Green’s penalty was another of the retaliation variety; he and some of his teammates and Caps coach believed that New York’s Derek Dorsett was guilty of slew-footing the Caps’ defenseman on the play, an infraction that is an automatic match penalty.
“Five-nothing in power plays, you don’t want to complain,” says Oates, “but that play, to me, is one that does concern me because it looked like a slew foot to me and that’s obviously why Mike reacted.
“Mike’s not that type of player. You watch it and to me, it looks like a slew foot. Very dangerous play. I realize Greenie is one of those guys that they want to target, but to me that’s very dangerous.”
Holtby concurred with Oates’ assessment of the play.
“I just think it was a more evenly matched game than it appeared on the [penalty kill]/power play outcome,” says Holtby. “The one that we all had a problem with obviously was the one with Greenie. I think that’s a play that should be reviewed. It’s only because Greenie is world class – one of the best skaters in the world – that he didn’t fall on his back there. It’s a dirty slew foot and we’re shorthanded from it. That’s the only one I think any of us had a problem with.”
Too many penalties, too much Lundqvist and not enough attack zone time all add up to one thing for the Caps, a tough loss. They’ll have 24 hours to regroup for Monday’s Game 7, and to work on keeping their cool.
“We took penalties,” sighs Brouwer. “We deserved some, we didn’t deserve some. I can’t believe that [the Rangers] didn’t get a penalty tonight. It seems a little bit outlandish. But that’s how it goes, that’s how the series has kind of gone on. We’re not helping ourselves either, when we take untimely penalties.”
Ah, but the Blueshirts did take a penalty. Two, even.
The Rangers’ collective halo was tarnished ever so slightly by a pair of matching minors doled out to Dan Girardi and Derek Stepan as time expired in the third period. Brouwer and John Carlson were also issued identically meaningless minors on the same sequence.
“I didn’t like the way that [the Rangers] took a couple of shots at Nick [Backstrom] there,” says Brouwer of the end-of-game scrum. “That’s all it was. Battles that result as a series goes on.”
Missed It By That Much – Lundqvist’s shutout is the 12th in Stanley Cup playoff history against the Capitals, and the second by Lundqvist himself. He joins Rangers goalie Mike Richter as the only goalie to author two playoff shutouts against the Capitals.
Each of the last three shutouts the Caps have suffered in the playoffs have been by a 1-0 score, and two of those came at the hands of Lundqvist, who blanked the Caps by that score in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinal series between Washington and New York on April 18, 2009.
Blank Streak – Brassard’s goal ended Holtby’s shutout streak over the Rangers at 98 minutes and 10 seconds. Brassard’s goal was New York’s first on the Caps’ goalie since the 53-second mark of the first period of Friday’s Game 5 when Brian Boyle scored for the Rangers.
Earlier in the series, Holtby whitewashed the Rangers for a span of 124 minutes and 6 seconds.
Lundqvist obviously takes a 60-minute shutout streak into Game 7.
Skilled Killers – Once again, the Capitals’ penalty-killing outfit did some great work in Sunday’s game. The Caps killed off all five New York power plays – including 44 seconds worth of a two-man advantage – and they limited the Rangers to seven power-play shots and 14 shot attempts in 9:16 with the extra man.
The Caps have killed off 24 of 26 (92.3%) New York power plays in the series.
Discipline Disparity – Let us count the ways.
The Rangers have had 26 power plays in the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs, more than any other team in the postseason. The Caps have had 14 power plays in six games, the fewest per game (2.33) of any of the 16 postseason entrants.
The Rangers have had more power plays than Washington in each of the last five games despite having had just 226 shot attempts to the Capitals’ 319 at even strength in those same five games. Washington had more even-strength shot attempts than New York in each of those five games.
New York had 15 power plays to five for Washington in the three games in New York in the series.
Since winning the first two games of the series, the Caps have had seven power plays to 19 for New York in the last four games.
Second Helping – Brassard’s goal in Game 6 is just the second the Rangers have scored in the middle frame in this series. Washington has outscored New York by a combined total of 7-2 in the middle period of the six games.
Down On The Farm – The ECHL Reading Royals finished of their Eastern Conference final series with the Cincinnati Cyclones on Saturday night, defeating the Cyclones 3-1 to take the series in five games.
Reading got a 25-save effort from Turner Gill in goal and offensive support from Ian O’Connor, Kirk MacDonald and T.J. Syner in the win.
The Royals now advance to the Kelly Cup final series against the Stockton Thunder. Game 1 is Saturday night at Sovereign Center in Reading.
By The Numbers – Green led the Caps with 23:40 in ice time … Ovechkin led the Caps with five shots on goal and 12 shot attempts … Jason Chimera paced the Capitals with six hits … Oleksy led Washington with five blocked shots … Mathieu Perreault won five of seven draws (71%), but the Caps won just 18 of 45 (40%) on the night.