Caps Force Game 7
By Stephen London
After losing their lead during Game 5 with 6.6 seconds remaining, the Washington Capitals were facing elimination in front of a hometown crowd at the Verizon Center May 9. Braden Holtby played his best game yet against the New York Rangers, stopping 30 of 31 total shots faced in what resulted as a 2-1 Capitals win.
The Capitals did come out of the gate strong, getting a penalty called on the Rangers within the first two minutes of the first period. Just 15 seconds into the power play opportunity, Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin found a crease in the defense and fired a one-timer to beat Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist.
Ovechkin's goal during Game 6 was his 30th career playoff goal, through five seasons of postseason play, tying Peter Bondra's franchise record of 30. Ovechkin is the first player since Joe Sakic of the Colorado Avalanche to score 30 playoff goals during his first 50 postseason games.
After that goal, Ovechkin did not spend much time on the ice with Nick Backstrom. For the first time during this year's playoffs, the Swedish connection (Backstrom and Marcus Johansson) was put on a line with veteran Jason Chimera, who had an amazing game. This line presents a tandem with tons of speed to burn, the finesse of the Swedes and the blue-collar hard work of Chimera.
Chimera, who drew more than one penalty during the game, was also at the right place at the right time during the second period. John Carlson threw a puck at the net and Backstrom deflected it across the crease to a streaking Chimera for the second goal of the game and a 2-0 Washington lead. Chimera has had a career playoff series, scoring three goals and an assist against the Rangers thus far.
Capitals center Jay Beagle was supposed to play in Game 6, according to head coach Dale Hunter, but could not participate in warm-ups because of a lower-body injury suffered before the game. In Beagle's place, Potomac native Jeff Halpern got his first playing time during the playoffs thus far. Playing with fresh legs, Halpern got plenty of penalty killing time, but also received a double minor high-sticking penalty during the second period.
The Capitals committed three minor penalties and one double minor during Game 6, including Mike Green's delay of game penalty during the third period, but the Rangers didn't convert any of the power-play opportunities.
The Rangers were down, 2-0, with 2:47 on the clock when they decided to pull Lundqvist, their perennial All-Star goaltender, and got their first goal off of a Marian Gaborik slap shot with 51 seconds left. The Capitals held on for the win, tying the series at three games apiece and forcing Game 7, which will be May 12 in New York.
Holtby has saved at least 90 percent of the shots he has faced during the past five games of the Eastern Conference semifinals. During Game 6, Holtby stopped 96.8 percent of shots faced and outperformed Lundqvist, a Hart Trophy finalist.
"[Holtby] is a world-class goalie," Chimera said, "and he showed it tonight."
Rangers head coach John Tortorella said after the game that he didn't receive the level of effort he wanted from his team. When asked about the double minor power play the Rangers had during the second period, Tortorella said, "It killed us. It sucked."
The Capitals have trouble coming back from a deficit, going 0-5 during the playoffs when their opponent scored the first goal, but are now the first team in NHL history to follow an overtime loss with a win four times during the playoffs.
"There's a lot of character in that [locker] room," Hunter said, "and again, they sacrificed and played a good game."
Posted May 10, 2012