Miracle on 34th Street – Down 3-0 at the start of the third period and having gone a franchise record six straight postseason games without scoring as many as three goals in a game, things didn’t look good for the Washington Capitals as they took the ice for the final 20 minutes of regulation in Wednesday’s Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal Series between the Caps and the New York Rangers.
Jason Chimera’s goal at 12:36 of the second overtime completed an improbable Washington comeback and gave the Caps a 4-3 win in a wild and wooly affair. Washington heads back home for Saturday’s Game 5 with a 3-1 lead in the series.
During the regular season, the Rangers were a perfect 29-0-0 when leading after two periods.
“It was just a play that kind of went up the wall,” says Chimera in recounting the game-winner. “Marcus [Johansson] had it, and you work on it all the time in practice when you have a 2-on-2, dropping and isolating one defenseman. I tried to shoot it quick and it went off [New York defenseman Dan] Girardi’s or someone’s stick. It sat there and I was going to get the rebound. One of the guys coming back [Marian Gaborik] poked it and it hit my chest. It was a lucky break; it just sat rightthere and it was right there for putting in.”
Two goals in a span of 57 seconds in the first four minutes of the third period gave the Capitals life, and sucked some life out of what had been a raucous crowd at Madison Square Garden.
Alexander Semin got the Caps started when he intercepted a Ryan McDonagh pass and shot it towards the New York net. The puck trickled through New York goaltender Henrik Lundqvist and wobbled on the goal line until Semin raced up to jab it in.
Less than a minute later, the Rangers left Washington rookie Johansson unattended at the right post, and he converted a Brooks Laich pass to bring the Caps within a goal.
“We gave them two free ones,” laments Rangers coach John Tortorella. “They surged on us, and we watched a little bit.”
“I think we all started to play together,” says Johansson. “Everybody got better and everybody bought into what we’re going to do. That’s what matters. We got pucks to the net and we got people there. That’s how we got a couple of goals, and that’s how we’re going to get goals in the future, too.”
Johansson drew the Caps even with his second of the night when John Carlson’s left point blast hit his hand and caromed past Lundqvist.
Washington authored eight winning comebacks when trailing after two periods during the regular season, tied for the most of any playoff team.
When Gaborik scored at 13:40 of the second period, it gave New York a 2-0 lead in game. It was the first two-goal lead the Rangers had owned in the series, but it didn’t last long.
That’s because just seven seconds later, Brandon Dubinsky scored for the Blueshirts to push that lead to 3-0. It is the first and only three-goal lead by any team in the series.
Washington asserted control over this series with a terrific second period in Game 2 last Friday in the District. Tonight, the Caps nearly handed that control back to the Rangers with a miserable middle frame effort.
“We weren’t playing real well in the second period,” says Laich. “Two quick goals [by the Rangers] really changed the game. And then in the third period we came out and were able to get a couple. It just shows the character in here. It’s a good win, but nothing’s over yet and we’ll go back home.”
Johansson’s goals were the first of his NHL playoff career.
“It always feels good to score,” says the Caps center, “but it doesn’t really matter who scores. The best thing is we won and it feels very good now.”
“That was a fabulous hockey game,” says Caps coach Bruce Boudreau. “Like I said in here the other night, two warrior teams going at it and leaving nothing. This has been a hell of a series so far, and I don't anticipate anything different on Saturday.”
The Caps are in the same position they were last spring, up 3-1 in a first-round series. They’ll try to close out the Rangers on Saturday, something they were unable to do to the Montreal Canadiens in 2010.
“There's no doubt in my mind,” begins Boudreau, “with two days off, they're going to regroup, and if we think we've got this won by any stretch of the imagination, we're in deep trouble.
“I think we were in this situation a little while ago."
Winning – Chimera’s game-winner was his second of the playoffs and his second game-winner of the playoffs. All three of his career playoff goals have been game-winners.
“It’s up there in your life,” says Chimera of the thrill of giving his team a victory in double-overtime of a Stanley Cup playoff game. “It’s next to maybe getting married and having kids, I think it’s the best thing that ever happened. I shouldn’t say besides getting married, but it’s nice.
“Kids are number one, but this is pretty [far] up there. It’s awesome. There’s no better feeling in the world. When you’re a hockey player, you want to have the game on your stick. It was just nice to get that goal.”
Chimera joins Mike Gartner (April 11, 1985) and Joé Juneau (April 26, 1998) as one of only three Capitals in franchise history to score a playoff game-winner beyond the first overtime period.
The last player to score against the Caps in Stanley Cup playoff game beyond the first overtime was Mike Knuble – then with the Flyers, now with the Caps – on April 17, 2008.
Scoreless First – For the fourth time in as many games in this series, the Caps and Rangers played a scoreless first 20 minutes. During the regular season, the Capitals never went as many as three straight games with a scoreless first frame by both sides.
Bad Boys – After taking eight minor penalties that led to seven New York power plays in Sunday’s Game 3, the Capitals talked about the need to be more disciplined in Wednesday’s Game 4. But it didn’t happen that way.
The Caps were whistled for five minors in the first 40 minutes of Game 3. Two of those minors could be seen as necessary to prevent New York breakaways, and one of them short-circuited a rare Washington power play opportunity late in the first.
Washington took another minor in the third and was whistled for a too many men on the ice call in overtime. That too many men minor had some of us long-timers thinking back eight years to the day, when Tampa Bay’s Martin St. Louis’ goal on a power play eliminated the Caps from the playoffs on Easter Sunday.
That power play against the Lightning eight years ago came about as the result of too many men on the ice. Tampa Bay’s coach at the time was Tortorella.
And Then There Was One – Going into Wednesday night’s game at the Garden, three Caps had registered at least a point in each of the first three games of the series: Alex Ovechkin, Jason Arnott and Mike Green.
At game’s end, only Green can make that claim. He collected an assist on Johansson’s first goal of the night.
Working Overtime – We’ve been saying that long overtime games favor the Capitals because Washington is far more comfortable rolling four lines and three defensive pairs than the Rangers are, and fatigue can become a factor faster for New York.
In Wednesday’s double-overtime game, there was a spread of just 5:22 in ice time among Washington’s top five defensemen. New York’s ice time spread among its top five rearguards was a much more pronounced 19:25.
Missed It By That Much – The Capitals missed 22 shots in Wednesday’s game, more shots than they had on goal (18) in Friday’s Game 2 at Verizon Center.
Washington teed up 103 shots on the night, getting 53 on Lundqvist and having 28 blocked in addition to the 22 misses.
The Rangers had 72 shot bids. New York put 39 shots on Neuvirth, had 21 blocked and missed a dozen times.
The Capitals’ Ovechkin launched 14 shots on the night, getting four on net with six blocks and four misses. For the series, Ovechkin now has 13 shots on goal in 46 shot attempts. He has had 20 shots blocked and has missed the net 13 times.
Gentle Giant No More – Rangers center Brian Boyle played in all 82 of his team’s games this season. He accumulated 74 penalty minutes in those games.
In the first period of Wednesday’s game, the 6-foot-7, 244-ound Boyle – the largest player on either side – twice launched himself at Neuvirth, earning a goaltender interference call both times.
Boyle went through the entire season without once being whistled for goaltender interference, and then incurred two such minors in the first period of Wednesday’s Stanley Cup playoff game.
Probably just a funny coincidence.
Hard Luck Hank -- Lundqvist's career playoff mark drops to 15-19 with Wednesday's loss. Lundqvist is 1-5 lifetime in Stanley Cup overtime games and has lost five in a row in such situations.
Quick Strikes – The Rangers’ two goals in a span of seven seconds was a second shy of being the fastest two playoff goals in team history. Blueshirt legend and Hockey Hall of Famer Rod Gilbert scored twice in a span of six seconds in an April 11, 1968 game against the Chicago Blackhawks.
Down On The Farm – The AHL Hershey Bears dropped a 3-2 contest to the Charlotte Checkers in Game 4 of their first-round Calder Cup playoff series.
The series continues on Friday when the Checkers host Game 5 at 7 p.m. Hershey hosts Game 6 at Giant Center on Sunday at 5 p.m.
By The Numbers – The Caps are now 5-2 all time in Stanley Cup overtime games against the Rangers … Girardi led all skaters on booth sides with 39:45 in ice time. He all paced all players with nine blocked shots … John Carlson’s 34:50 led the Caps in ice time. Carlson and Jeff Schultz led the way for Washington with five blocked shots each … The Rangers’ Brian Boyle led all skaters on both sides with 10 hits in the game. Matt Bradley led the Caps with seven hits, registering them in just 10:59 of ice time while Boyle needed nearly 30 minutes to get his 10 … Semin led the Capitals with seven shots on goal while Boyle led the Rangers with five … Johansson and the Rangers’ Derek Stepan were the only two skaters in the game not to be credited with at least one hit …
1 - 0 NYR
2 - 0 NYR
3 - 0 NYR
3 - 1 NYR
3 - 2 NYR
3 - 3 Tie
1st OT Period
2nd OT Period
4 - 3 WSH
Interference - Goalkeeper
Interference - Goalkeeper