Three Stars: Mike Green, Nicklas Backstrom, Artem Anisimov
So much for the fatigue factor, eh?
This game was the epitome of a back-and-forth, up-and-down, you-hit-me-I'll-hit-you-right-back run.
We begin of course with Ovechkin's goal. He had already taken several shots with no success. I take that back. He was successful--in finding Henrik Lundquist's glove. But like all great players, he persisted, and persistence always pays off. And it did pay off at 12:43 of the first period. Officially, the goal has no assists posted. However, it should be pointed out that he was indeed assisted, just not by a Capital. Much celebrated rookie Chris Kreider made a bad clearing attempt that found its way onto Ovechkin's stick. One hard blast from the point later, the Caps had first blood. On a side note, Kreider also found himself on the ice for another goal against and saw his ice time drop to 7:34.
Unfortunately, Ovechkin was also responsible for the game's next goal early the next stanza. Perhaps proving why he gets a seat on the bench in key defensive situations, he let Dan Girardi get around him. Once Girardi did so he was able to find Artem Anisimov for a quick tap-in.
The Captain giveth and the Captain taketh away....
But then, there was Backstrom. His was perhaps the most satisfying goal of the game, maybe even the series. Pursuing the puck, he found himself in the corner where he absorbed (and returned) not one, but two hits before sending the puck behind the net to Joel Ward. Ward left it for Jason Chimera in the opposite corner, who zipped it to, appropriately enough, Backstrom who finished the play from the slot.
Who says Swedes don't go into corners? Soft? I don't think so. That is, until....
Mark Staal sent out a zone clear that began harmlessly enough. Except someone forgot to tell Artem Anisimov that it was probably going to end up as an icing. The Caps defense pair of Jeff Schultz and Dennis Wideman also missed that memo as they completely gave up on the play and let Anisimov go. There's no two ways about it--that was simply Gosh-awful hockey. The end result was a near carbon copy of the winning goal from last game, down to the same guy who scored it, Marian Gaborik.
So we entered the third period tied, and you had to wonder when the two teams would start making mistakes. The fatigue factor was beginning to work its way into the game. And it showed in various lapses and breakdowns on both ends. The Caps had two glorious chances, one stopped on a brilliant save by Lundquist and one that suffered an early death by referee's whistle.
Late in the period, John Carlson found himself in a battle with Carl Hagelin when Hagelin decided to audition for one of these. Fortunately, all that was damaged was Carlson's stick. The Caps took advantage of this opportunity when Mike Green slapped home the eventual game winner from the point. Welcome back, number 52. Much rejoicing ensued about an hour or so later when they finally got the last minute of the game played.
A word about a certain questionable play. There will be those that will stand on their soapbox and bleat until whenever that Ovechkin should be suspended for his hit on Dan Girardi. Yes he left the ice. No, the principal point of contact was not the head. And, most importantly, there was no injury on the play. Whether you like it or don't like it, it is the standard used to judge the severity of a play. If the Office of Player Safety gets this one right, we will all be feeling fine.
It's hard to say that the momentum has shifted to our side. Control of the momentum has been fleeting at best for both teams. But I like the way this team keeps on showing its resilience. And they will need more of it in this now best of three series.