Postgame Notebook: Capitals 5, Rangers 3
O (And D) From the D –
Throughout the first five games of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal Series between the Capitals and the New York Rangers, the stellar play of the Washington defense had been overlooked by many.
In Sunday’s Game 6 at Madison Square Garden, the Caps defense grabbed the spotlight early for altogether different reasons. Three different Caps defensemen scored in the first period, helping to spur Washington to a 5-3 victory over the Rangers in a game that wasn’t as close as the score would indicate. The victory forces a deciding Game 7 at Verizon Center on Tuesday night.
Milan Jurcina started the party with his first-ever Stanley Cup playoff goal at 7:09 of the first. Jurcina, who possesses arguably the heaviest shot among all the Caps, passed on booming his slapper and instead pulled a rarely used wrister from his quiver. It beat Lundqvist high to the glove (short) side to give the Caps a 1-0 lead.
New York tied the game just over a minute later, but Mike Green
notched his first goal of the 2009 playoffs on a Washington power play at 13:58 to give the Caps a lead they would not relinquish. Green’s goal also went high on the glove (short) side.
exited the penalty box to scoop up a loose puck and create a 3-on-1 break with Caps penalty killers David Steckel
and Boyd Gordon
late in the first. Poti passed to Gordon, who fed Steckel, who returned the puck to Poti. The Caps defenseman tapped in a lay-up for his second goal of the playoffs.
Poti later assisted on each of Washington’s final two tallies of the afternoon in the second period.
While the Caps defense will earn some much-deserved notice for its offensive outburst on Sunday, it’s about time the unit got some kudos for its work at its own end of the ice. The Capitals have allowed just 23.8 shots on goal per game during the playoffs, fewest among the 16 teams who began competition for the Stanley Cup at season’s end.
The Washington defense allowed an average of 29.5 shots on goal per game during the regular season, the 13th best rate in the NHL.
Biting The Hand –
Poti’s big game came against his former employer. He spent three-plus seasons with the Rangers, and recorded the only previous four-point game (four assists) as a member of the Blueshirts against the Islanders on Feb. 19, 2004.
Ovechkin (three goals, four assists) and Alexander Semin
(four goals, three assists) have seven points each, tied for third in the NHL’s playoff scoring race. Ovechkin’s plus-5 is tied for third in the league. Poti’s six points (two goals, four assists) are tied for the league lead among defensemen. Nicklas Backstrom
owns sole possession of the lead among all NHL skaters with six playoff assists.
Between the pipes, Washington goaltender Simeon Varlamov has a .954 postseason save pct. and a 1.21 playoff goals against average. Both figures rank second in the NHL behind only Vancouver’s Roberto Luongo.
Lunch Bucketers –
For Friday’s Game 6 in Washington, Caps coach Bruce Boudreau cobbled together an energy/checking line consisting of Brooks Laich
, David Steckel
and Matt Bradley
. That trio was the starting unit in Game 6, and it helped Washington get out to a 2-0 first period lead with a pair of Bradley goals.
Once again on Sunday, the Steckel-centered unit was the Caps’ starting trio, and an effective group throughout the game. Laich had an assist and Steckel had a pair of helpers, and Bradley dealt out a team-high four hits.
The Steckel line was out on the ice for Marc Staal’s meaningless goal in the waning seconds of Sunday’s game, a tally that made the final score 5-3. To look at Steckel, Bradley and Laich after the goal, you’d have thought they had been out for the game’s tying tally.
That sort of pride in workmanship is why you’re likely to see them out on the Verizon Center sheet to start Tuesday’s Game 7.
Win Or Go Home –
When the Caps return home to face the Rangers in a deciding Game 7 on Tuesday, they will bring along an impressive 4-1 record in “win or go home” playoff games over the past two seasons. The lone blemish on that log is the Caps’ 3-2 overtime loss to Philadelphia in Game 7 of last year’s Eastern Conference Quarterfinal Series.
Sixteen, With a Bullet –
With his second period assist on Viktor Kozlov’s second goal of the series, veteran Caps center Sergei Fedorov recorded the 171st point (51 goals, 120 assists) of his NHL career in Stanley Cup playoff competition. That ties Fedorov with Peter Forsberg for 16th place on the league’s all-time playoff scoring list.
Fedorov is a single point behind Mario Lemieux (172) for 15th place, and he ranks second behind only Colorado’s Joe Sakic (188) among all active NHL players in playoff scoring.
Powering Up –
New York’s vaunted penalty killing outfit kept the Caps’ stellar power play off the scoreboard in this series in Games 4 and 5. But the Caps rebounded with two power play strikes in as many chances on Sunday.
During the regular season, the Rangers surrendered only 16 power play goals on home ice in 41 games all season. The Caps have reached the Rangers for four power play goals in three Madison Square Garden games in this series.
New York had three games during the regular season in which it surrendered more than one power play goal in a home game, including one against the Caps. Washington has had a pair of multiple power-play goal games at MSG in this series.
First Four, Last Two –
After dominating the storylines early in the series, Lundqvist has struggled in his last two outings. He has been pulled from each of the last two contests after 40 minutes of work, allowing a total of nine goals in 80 minutes on just 34 shots. He has a 6.75 GAA and a .735 save pct. in the last two games.
For the series, Lundqvist has a 3.19 GAA and a .907 save pct. Those numbers are a bit off his regular season figures of 2.43 and .916, respectively.
Coffee is For Closers –
With Sunday’s loss, the Rangers’ all-time record in potentially series clinching Game 6 contests drops to 9-4.
Happy Birthday –
To Varlamov, who celebrates his 21st birthday on Monday. I’m guessing we’ll see some shaving cream slung in the Caps’ locker room at some point after practice.
|Three star selections