Capitals' Core Came To Beat Rangers
By Stephen London
The Washington Capitals have had their struggles toward the beginning of their two playoff series this season, going down 2-1 in both. Game 4 against the Rangers became a must win after the Capitals lost during the third overtime of Game 3 at the Verizon Center May 2.
Alex Ovechkin, Nick Backstrom and Mike Green registered goals for the hometown crowd and the Capitals edged the Rangers, 3-2, May 5. This was the 13th time in recent franchise history that Ovechkin, Backstrom and Green all registered goals during the same game, and the Capitals have won all of those games. Marcus Johansson did not get on the score sheet, but his passing was one of the main reasons the Capitals were able to sustain pressure in the offensive zone.
During the first period, the Capitals went on the power play, just 2 minutes and 25 seconds into the game. The Capitals outshot the Rangers, 14-3, during the first period because of the pressure the man advantage created. Even though the Capitals did not score on this power play, their puck movement was exceptional.
Almost 10 minutes after the first penalty of the game was called, Capitals captain Ovechkin fired a slap shot from the top of the circle, beating Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist for the first goal of the game. Not long into the second period, Artem Anisimov of the Rangers responded with a goal of his own, tying the game, 1-1.
Backstrom not only helped the Capitals offensively, but also played with excellent awareness on the defensive side of the puck. The good defensive play led to good offensive pressure, causing Backstrom to sling a wrist shot, beating Lundqvist top shelf to take the lead, 2-1, midway through the second period.
Toward the end of the second period, Capitals defensemen Dennis Wideman and Jeff Schultz appeared to have a miscommunication because of a waived-off icing call, which allowed the Rangers' Marian Gaborik to score a game-tying goal.
Both teams played well defensively after that, holding each other scoreless for most of the third period. With just 6:15 left on the clock, the Capitals received a vital power-play opportunity when Rangers rookie Carl Hagelin was assessed for slashing John Carlson. The power-play unit spread out, moved the puck to the open man and got a shot on goal. Green had a wide-open view of the net before ripping a shot past Lundqvist to give the Capitals a 3-2 lead.
Right after the Capitals took the lead during the second period, Ovechkin got called for a charging penalty because of a hit he delivered to Dan Girardi.
"He left his feet," Ranger defenseman Marc Staal said after the game. "It looked like he was going for his head."
Capitals head coach Dale Hunter said it was incidental contact, when asked whether he was worried about a possible suspension. Ovechkin did leave his feet, but it did not seem to be a planned run at Girardi. It would not be the first time Ovechkin has been suspended for leaving his feet -- that was the cause of his three-game suspension right before the All-Star break this season.
Braden Holtby had a great game in net, stopping 18 of 20 total shots faced. The rookie goaltender has gone 27 games without losing back-to-back starts, dating back to November 2010.
The Rangers should eventually get Brandon Dubinsky back from a lower-body injury suffered during the opening round of the playoffs. Dubinsky, a 6-foot-1 center, is a physical player. It will be interesting to see how big of an impact Dubinsky will have when he makes his way back into the lineup.
Game 5 is at Madison Square Garden in New York May 7, and the series will shift back to the Verizon Center May 9 for Game 6. If the teams split those two games, Game 7 will be in New York.
Posted May 6, 2012