Marathon Men – Game 3 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinal series between the Capitals and the New York Rangers started on Wednesday night and ended on Thursday morning. That’s when New York’s Marian Gaborik got just enough time and space in the slot to convert a quick centering feed from Brad Richards behind the Washington net. Gaborik’s shot hit the stick blade of Caps goalie Braden Holtby and went through his legs and into the net.
Gaborik’s goal came with 5:19 remaining in the third overtime session gave the Rangers a 2-1 win in a thrilling contest and a 2-1 lead in the series.
“It’s a loss,” says Holtby. “It’s no different than any other one. A hard fought battle. We will be ready for the next game. It was a good game.”
For Gaborik, the goal was his second of the playoffs and first in his last nine games.
“It was a long game,” says Gaborik. “We were talking about staying with the system and make sure we keep it simple. It was about will. We wanted to win this game. It was great to get the win.”
Game 4 is on Saturday afternoon in Washington.
Both teams had ample chances to end the proceedings earlier, with Washington having the best of those opportunities going back to regulation. Caps winger Troy Brouwer missed wide on a strong chance in the first overtime, and Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin hit the right post on a shot minutes later.
Rangers winger Mike Rupp fired a shot from in tight in the second overtime that likely would have gone in, except it hit teammate Brian Boyle in the backside. New York had a power play opportunity late in the first overtime and had another extra-man chance early in the third overtime session.
“We had our chances,” says Caps forward Matt Hendricks. “We had some really good opportunities; a couple of posts. We just didn’t find the back of the net and they got the last bounce, so it’s what we expected against the Rangers. We expected this tight checking hockey. They had a power-play goal tonight too, we didn’t have one, so that was the difference.”
From the start of the contest at 7:40 on Wednesday night to the end 14 minutes past midnight, this one was vastly different from the first two games of the series. Both sides skated well and hard, and there weren’t many whistles. There were long stretches of play featuring changes on the fly, some long and arduous shifts and back and forth action unencumbered by face-offs.
Most of New York’s chances came from extended possession in the attack zone; the Rangers were very strong with their cycle game and often had the Caps chasing them for extended stretches of time. Most of Washington’s best chances came off the rush.
Ryan Callahan gave New York a 1-0 lead on a power play goal at 6:41 of the second period and Washington’s John Carlson tied it with a goal-scorer’s goal off a brilliant individual effort less than five minutes later.
The two teams played 83 minutes and 31 seconds of scoreless hockey between Carlson’s goal and Gaborik’s game-winner. New York had 49 shots on net to Washington’s 46, but the capitals fired more shot attempts than New York, 115-107. The Caps blocked 41 shots to New York’s 40.
“I think my entire body is just tired right now,” says winning Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist. “I just want to lay down and relax and get a massage. My neck is hurting. It’s just a great feeling. That’s the toughest thing - it’s in your head. After the fourth period I think it’s all in your head. It’s not so much your technique or your physique – it’s just ‘how much can you push yourself?’”
Washington is now in familiar territory. The Caps were down 2-1 in their first-round series against Boston going into Game 4.
“It’s tough,” says Hendricks. “You invest a lot every night, no matter what; if it’s a 60-minute game or extended into overtime. When you extend into overtime you are investing more and more and you are putting everything you’ve got into it. Unfortunately, we didn’t win tonight, but we can’t let that bother us. We just need to get prepared for the next one.”
Holtby has not lost consecutive games in a span of 26 NHL starts including the playoffs, a streak that dates back to November, 2010. The Caps will be counting on him to keep that streak going in Saturday’s Game 4.
“That’s my job,” says Holtby. “My job is to stop pucks and to win games. I believe if I focus on every shot and play to the best of my abilities, with the group we have, I am confident that we will win four games out of seven.”
History – For the Capitals, Wednesday’s game was the their third longest Stanley Cup playoff contest in franchise history and their longest since a quadruple overtime loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1996.
It was the fourth time in franchise history that a Caps playoff game went to three or more overtimes. All four of those games were played in the District and all were Washington losses. Two were played at the Capitals’ original Capital Centre/USAir Arena home and two have been played in the team’s current home on F Street.
Tortorella was behind the bench for the last triple-overtime game played at verizon Center more than nine years ago. The Rangers bench boss was at the helm of the Tampa Bay Lightning in those days, and his team prevailed in triple-overtime on Easter Sunday of 2003, thanks to a Martin St. Louis power play goal that came courtesy of a too many men on the ice call against Washington. That loss gave the Lightning the series and eliminated the Caps from the playoffs.
For the Rangers, Wednesday’s game was its first triple-overtime tilt since Pete Stemkowski’s goal at 1:29 of the third overtime defeated the Chicago Blackhawks on April 29, 1971. That was Stemkowski’s second overtime game-winner of that series.
Wednesday’s game was the fourth longest in New York’s storied franchise history, and the longest since March 21, 1939 when Boston’s Mel “Sudden Death” Hill scored at 59:25 of overtime – just prior to the end of the third overtime session – to beat the Blueshirts. That was the first of three overtime game-winning goals for Hill in that series.
No Whistle Stop – There were “only” 94 face-offs in the 114 minutes and 41 seconds of hockey played at Verizon Center in Game 3. There were only 14 draws in the third period and in the second overtime.
Long Time Coming – Gaborik’s goal ended a stretch of 186 minutes and 11 seconds in which New York had not scored a goal in five-on-five play. That streak dated back to the middle of the third period of Game 1 when Richards scored for the Rangers.
Streaks Stopped – New York’s overtime win ended a string of seven straight overtime losses in Stanley Cup play for the Rangers. The victory also halted a five-game postseason losing streak for New York in games played at Verizon Center, and it ended a streak in which the Rangers had scored one or zero goals in six straight Stanley Cup playoff games at Verizon Center.
Forgotten Man – Rangers’ sixth defenseman Stu Bickel played a total of 3:24 over three shifts, and he did not see the ice at all after the end of the second period. Bickel played 17 seconds more in Game 3 than he did in Game 2 in New York.
By The Numbers – Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh led all skaters on both sides with 53:21 in ice time. He logged 25:17 of that in the overtime portion of the game … Dennis Wideman led all Capitals with 41:40 in ice time … Each of the Rangers’ top four defensemen logged more ice than Wideman … Hendricks led the Caps in shots on net (six) and hits (11) … Gaborik led the Rangers with seven shots and Boyle led the Blueshirts with nine hits … McDonagh led all skaters on both sides with eight blocked shots … Carlson led the Capitals with seven blocked shots … The Caps missed the net 28 times to New York’s 18 … Gaborik, Ovechkin and Wideman led all skaters with 14 shot attempts each in the game.