Three Stars: Braden Holtby, Alex Ovechkin, Jason Chimera
Never say die! Or some such phrase.....
As fearful as I was going into last night's game, you just knew the Caps would come out with a stone-faced attitude towards what had happened the game before and the task in front of them.
In other words, they just simply had to forget about Game 5 and move on. Here's how they did it....
It all began just over a minute into the game when Jason Chimera was hauled down by Rangers defenseman Anton Stralman. A word about that--Stralman hasn't impressed me all that much and why John Tortorella plays him as much as he does is beyond me. Unless he's using him to spell off his big horses like Dan Girardi and Marc Staal. In any case, he just seems overmatched and a liability no matter who he plays against, and taking that penalty was just more proof of that.
The Caps top power play unit took the ice and they only needed 15 seconds to make something happen. Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Green did their usual masterful job in keeping the cycle going. Ryan Callahan lost his footing along the left wing boards which created that much more space for Alex Ovechkin, and that was all he needed. Green found him all alone in the high slot and the Captain sent a wrister home for the early lead.
The way this team continues to evolve has been a marvel to local writers who otherwise care not and know not about hockey. It has also been a topic of debate for those more knowledgeable about the game. Either way, it was noticeable last night as the Caps decided not to go into a defensive shell after that goal, but to keep their foot on the gas. They actually held an early lead in shots in the first period before the Rangers eventually over took them. Even so, they ended up putting nine shots on net for the period. The rest of the way, they didn't exactly trade shot for shot, but they kept up well, coming close on several chances.
Around 11 minutes into the second, the Caps created a sustained cycle in the Rangers' end of the ice. Backstrom again was key in keeping the play going. The puck ended up on John Carlson's stick, who put it on net. It deflected off Backtrom's skate over to a waiting Jason Chimera for a tap-in.. This was of course the eventual game winner. But none of it would have happened at all had it not been for the hard work of Alexander Semin. Let me say that again...the hard work of Alexander Semin. Believe it. Not sure if you can? Watch the game highlights. By the way, that name again is Alexander Semin, not Jacques Cousteau.
With time dwindling in the third, the Rangers pulled Henrik Lundquist. Marian Gaborik scored with just under a minute left in pinball like fashion. More on this later. Other than that one blemish, Braden Holtby was again superb. He was literally a human vacuum cleaner, swallowing up every shot that came his way. He was of course ably assisted by the corps of shot blockers. EXCEPT for Jay Beagle. Unfortunately and unbeknownst to me until I heard John Walton's bewildered explanation of it, Snoopy would miss the game with an undisclosed (when is anything EVER disclosed come playoff time???) injury. If I had to guess, he blocked a shot last game and it felt none too good.
That last goal, the one at the end that spoiled the shutout. It gave new meaning to the phrase et le but(t). As in that's how it went in...off John Carlson's.
Speaking of duffs, here's a nice video. I've always wondered--what would he do for an encore?
And on that subject, it should be pointed out that the Captain got lots of love for his efforts last night. This from the same talking heads and swordsmen and swordswomen who wrote him off earlier for having a bad year. Say it with me....we're sorry, Alex.
Three cheers to the Penalty Killing units. Although, if I had my way, they wouldn't have been out there as many times as they had to be! A double-minor for high-sticking? Gee, good thing THAT wasn't disaster...again.
So onward to another Game 7 we go. Yes we've been here before, but that won't guarantee the same result as before. I'm just hoping for a clean game without any controversy or some sort of screw up by either team. Or the officials for that matter, and that includes the people running the clock. And may the best team win...as long as that team is in the road white colors.
One final note...to all my fellow pizza lovers out there. Though they didn't score the four goals needed, Papa John's has decided to accept the usual code in celebration of the Caps efforts. Enter CAPS50 when placing your online order today....and enjoy! I know I will!