Don’t Bury Them Cuz They’re Not Dead Yet – There will be a Game 7 in New York On Saturday. The Washington Capitals ensured as much with a 2-1 win over the New York Rangers on Wednesday night in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinal series between the two teams.
Alex Ovechkin’s power play goal at 1:28 of the first period put the Capitals on top 1-0, and Washington maintained the lead for the remainder of the game, the longest any team has owned a lead continuously in any of the Capitals’ 13 postseason games this spring.
Using his world-class wheels, Caps left wing Jason Chimera drew the penalty on which Ovechkin scored, a tripping call on New York blueliner Anton Stralman. Chimera later chipped in with a goal of his own, his third of the series.
Ovechkin was moved down low on the power play from his customary point spot; and he drifted into the slot for a feed from Nicklas Backstrom and fired a one-timer over the glove hand of New York netminder Henrik Lundqvist.
“It’s just one of those changes we make,” says Caps coach Dale Hunter of the power play alignment. We thought that Ovi, with his big shot, could get a shot off. On the play, one of their players [Ryan Callahan] fell and really left an opening and a shot from there by Ovi doesn’t miss very often.”
Washington has now rebounded from four straight overtime losses – the last two of them in this series, and both of them sheer and utter heart-breakers – with wins in each of the games immediately following. The Caps have yet to lose consecutive contests in the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs.
Twenty-two-year-old rookie Caps goaltender Braden Holtby has now gone 29 straight starts without losing consecutive games, a streak that dates back to November of 2010.
New York’s Marian Gaborik spoiled Holtby’s shutout bid with a goal in the final minute of the game, a one-timer from the right dot.
Holtby made 30 saves on the night to outduel Lundqvist (21 saves), who was excellent in keeping the Rangers within striking distance all night.
Holtby’s 863 postseason minutes are tops among all NHL netminders. He has a 1.95 GAA and a .935 save pct. in his 13 starts this spring.
“We don’t want to stop playing,” says Ovechkin, of the Caps forcing a Game 7. “We don’t want to finish the season. We knew we could beat them. It was very intense. Their top [defensemen] played lots of minutes. We are going to have our chances. We had our chances, but Lundqvist played unbelievable again in the third period. Same as Holtby.”
Getting By – Washington scored two or fewer goals in 35 of its 82 regular season games in 2011-12. The Capitals were just 6-26-3 in those contests.
The Caps have scored two or fewer goals eight times in their 13 playoff games to date this spring, and they are 4-4 in those eight games.
Strive For Five-on-Five – New York’s only goal of the game came in the final minute of regulation with Lundqvist pulled for an extra attacker.
The Rangers scored three five-on-five goals in their 3-1 win over Washington in Game 1 of this series. They have managed just four goals in 5-on-5 play over the last 367 minutes and 46 seconds of play since.
New York is currently without a 5-on-5 tally in the last 109 minutes and 16 seconds of the series. The Rangers went 186 minutes and 11 seconds without a 5-on-5 strike earlier in the series, a streak that ended with Gaborik’s game-winner late in the third overtime period of Game 3.
Goose Egg Redemption – Ovechkin didn’t register a goal in Monday’s Game 5; it was just the second time in 49 postseason games and the sixth time in 602 career NHL contests including the regular season that he failed to record a shot on goal in a game.
Ovechkin scored on his first shot in Wednesday’s game. In the six games following those six shotless games, he now has totaled five goals and five assists for 10 points. He has taken a total of 38 shots in those six games.
Ovechkin’s goal tonight was the 30th of his Stanley Cup playoff career and it came in his 50th game. He has matched Peter Bondra’s Washington franchise record for career playoff goals; Bondra had 30 goals in 73 career playoff contests.
Ovechkin is the first NHL player since Joe Sakic to net 30 playoff goals in his first 50 postseason games.
Blueshirt Beater – Chimera has five goals in 11 career playoff games against Lundqvist and the Rangers. He has two playoff goals in 24 games against the rest of the NHL.
Chimera’s four playoff goals this spring are second on the club only to Ovechkin’s five.
Four of Chimera’s seven career playoff goals have been game-winners, and three of those have come at New York’s expense.
Prosperity – When Chimera scored to make it 2-0 at 10:59 of the second period, it marked the first time Washington had owned a two-goal since the first period of Game 2 of their series against the Rangers. It was just the third two-goal lead Washington has enjoyed at any point in the 13 games they’ve played in the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs.
The Caps managed to protect that two-goal lead into the final minute of regulation, so they owned a two-goal advantage for a total of 28 minutes and 10 seconds in Game 6. That’s more time than Boston, Washington and New York had in combined two-goal lead time in the Capitals’ first dozen playoff games this spring (16 minutes, 27 seconds).
Leading Men – The Capitals led for 58 minutes and 32 seconds in Wednesday’s Game 6. That’s longer than any team has held a lead continuously in any single Caps playoff game this spring.
It’s also longer than the Boston Bruins owned a lead in the seven games combined in Washington’s first-round series (44 minutes, 23 seconds).
Winning At Home – The Caps are now 3-3 on home ice in the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs. Each of their home wins has been a significant one; they won Game 4 in each series to avoid falling into a 3-1 series hole each time, and won Game 6 on Wednesday to avoid the end of their season.
Dodging The Wednesday Bullet – Each of the Capitals’ three previous playoff exits – in 2009, 2010 and 2011 – came on a Wednesday night.
Not on this Wednesday night, this spring.
First Strike – The Capitals are now 7-1 in playoff games in which they’ve scored the first goal this spring. Washington is 0-5 in games in which it has not tallied first.
Special Delivery – The Caps got Ovechkin’s early power play goal and went 1-for-3 with the extra man on the night. They are now 4-for-19 (21.1%) on the power play in this series and 7-for-38 (18.4%) in the postseason. That’s the fifth best power-play efficiency rate among the 16 playoff teams this spring.
The Caps successfully snuffed all five New York power play chances, and are now 19-for-23 (82.6) on the kill in this series. Washington is now 40-for-46 (87%) on the penalty kill in the 2012 playoffs. That’s good for sixth best among all the playoff entrants.
Washington owns a special teams index (power play percentage plus penalty kill percentage) of 103.7 in the series and 105.4 for the playoffs to date.
A Man Down – Washington played without center Jay Beagle in Wednesday’s Game 6. Beagle did not take the morning skate prior to Game 6, but the Caps believed he would be able to play – and informed the media as much – right up until just before warm-ups.
Beagle has a lower body injury and is day-to-day. His ailment did not respond to treatment as he and the training staff had hoped, so he was held out despite being partially dressed and hopeful of trying to play.
Back In The Saddle Again – Beagle’s absence meant that veteran pivot Jeff Halpern got a sweater for the first time in the 2012 playoffs and for the first time since a March 23 regular season game against the Winnipeg Jets at Verizon Center.
Halpern skated 10:23 in his return to the lineup, recorded a shot on goal, took a double-minor for high-sticking, and won seven of the 13 face-offs (54%) he took on the night.
For Halpern, tonight was his first playoff game in a Capitals sweater since April 20, 2003, the day the Tampa Bay Lightning eliminated the Capitals from the 2003 Stanley Cup playoffs on a Martin St. Louis power-play goal in triple-overtime.
Including tonight’s game against the Rangers, Halpern has appeared in 18 career playoff games for Washington. He has totaled four goals and nine points. Two of those goals came on the power play and two were game-winners.
Most notably, Halpern scored an overtime game-winner over the Penguins in Game 4 of the 2001 Eastern Conference quarterfinal series on April 18, 2001.
By The Numbers – Since 2008, the Caps are now 4-0 in Game 6 when facing elimination … Karl Alzner led the Caps with 23:13 in ice time … Chimera paced the Caps with five shots on net … Ovechkin led the Caps with five hits … The Caps blocked 24 shots to New York’s six. Twelve of Washington’s 18 skaters blocked at least one shot. Dennis Wideman led the way with four … Washington won 38 of the game’s 65 draws (58%).