GWG: Alex Ovechkin
Three Stars: Braden Holtby, Michael Del Zotto, Alex Ovechkin
Grandma Fiddler said it best.
A much needed win in a hostile environment to even the series. Now we're back in it. And the best part is that our Captain is back on the board. With the game winner no less.
This series is shaping up to be another old fashioned, grind-it-out, score while you can type of showdown. In other words, a lot like the last series. Now there was one other encouraging sign other than Alex Ovechkin's overall play (what little we saw of it). And that was the fact that the Capitals jumped out to a two goal lead in the first period. Which once again confirms what we already know about Henrik Lundquist--that despite his heroics, he can be beaten. Observe.....
After some helter-skelter play on both sides, the scoring finally opened on a beautiful pass play that was finished by Mike Knuble. The play started with a Joel Ward rush into the zone, then a dish to Keith Aucoin, who waited until the right moment to throw it to Knuble for the tap-in at the top of the crease. Time of the goal was 12:20. Nearly five minutes later the puck was sent around the boards where Lundquist played it, but was beaten to it by Jason Chimera. He dug it out to the high slot where Matt Hendricks threw it on net and it trickled in with some help from Chimera.
Towards the end of the period however, the Rangers would strike--Michael Del Zotto and Marian Gaborik connected with Brad Richards for a tap-in with 43 seconds left in the first. I always say, last minute goals are a thing to fear....beware the momentum shift. The good news was that it took a while for that momentum swing to happen. The bad news, well, is that it happened. It took place 6:58 into the third period, while shorthanded no less. Can't blame the zebras on this one--Mike Knuble tried to play the puck with a high stick. All he got was Ryan Callahan's face. Lucky for him it was only two minutes. Unlucky for the Caps the Rangers only needed 56 seconds to score. Callahan deflected it from in front off a bomb from the powerplay point by Richards.
The awful feeling of "oh no, here we go again" hung in the air after that goal. After all, it was a lost lead. But that could only mean one thing--the Caps needed someone to save the day. Or something like that.
Now he may have only had 13 minutes of ice time, but Alex Ovechkin sure didn't carry himself that way. His attitude was not lost on the NBC Sports commentators, who praised him constantly for how he went about his business both on and off the ice. Speaking of the former, yes it was he who broke the tie, but it was the way he did it that made it so special. The Caps were the beneficiaries of a power play, which resulted from a constant battle between John Carlson and Brad Richards. Carlson was held more than my last date held me, but that's another story. Richards would eventually get called for it, which set the stage.
If the Rangers power play took 56 seconds, the Capitals only needed four. Nicklas Backstrom took the draw, won it, and promptly set a screen in front of Lundquist. That would be all Ovechkin needed. After collecting Backstrom's draw pass, he circled to the left side of the power play point and BAM! (Sorry, Emeril) Instant lead! He topped it off by celebrating at center ice, letting the stunned Madison Square Garden crowd know that, yes, he could hear them, and no, he didn't give a damn. Six and a half minutes later after much clanging of posts and biting of nails, the Caps emerged victorious.
We begin with our Man Bites Dog item--Dennis Wideman was one of three Capitals to finish the game at minus one. MUST RESIST URGE TO SMASH TELEVISION....when he touches the puck, that is.
Speaking of dogs, Jay Beagle led all forwards in ice time by over a minute. He also led with five hits and picked up an assist. That's a hard working dog, not anything at like Snoopy.
Now Braden Holtby did indeed earn his number 1 star last night. But he wouldn't have gotten anywhere without some help from the Washington posts. No, I don't mean the newspaper. I counted at least three clangs, one for each post and the crossbar in the third period alone.
Paging Alex Semin, that's Alexander Semin, your presence is requested sometime this series.
An ill-advised change leads to a goal. It was Brooks Laich who...had to go to the bathroom? had to send an urgent text? forgot to tie his skate? Whatever the reason it was embarrassing to see. Might as well have give the Rangers an unannounced power play.
You're kidding? The Caps blew a lead? Nahhh, impossible.
Smacka da forehead--Jeff Schultz paired with Dennis Wideman? Sergeant Stiff and Corporal Clumsy? Can someone please explain this?
One coaching decision that is working out...at least for now....is the use (or lack thereof) of Alex Ovechkin. The more the media puffs up this story, the more it blows up in their face, which would explain why the talking heads were so on board with it. Half of a controversy comes from how it is treated by those directly involved. So far, both Coach Hunter and the Captain have said it is a non-issue. As long as they continue to treat it like a non issue, there will be no potential fallout. But one wonders what will happen if things start to take a turn for the worse. This has the potential to change the life of the playoff run for this team. (Cue ominous music here).
So the Caps have come away from the Big Apple with a split. Good things come when you share. Let's hope this is a continuation of a trend.
Game 4 is at Verizon Center tomorrow night with an approximate puck drop time of 7:41.