If the Rangers were to finally snap their playoff overtime stigma dating all the way back to Michal Rozsival’s double overtime winner in Game 3 of the 2007 Eastern Conference semifinals against Buffalo, it had to be in spectacular fashion.
So is Marian Gaborik scoring his first goal since Game 1 of the playoffs at 12:14 AM Eastern in triple overtime after 114:41 of hockey spectacular enough?
Gaborik’s goal that ended his personal drought, the Rangers’ own playoff drought and a long, grueling five-plus periods of hockey capped off the Rangers’ longest playoff game since 1939 and gave them a 2-1 win in triple OT over the Washington Capitals at the Verizon Center.
This was a long game. The best example of that is the fact that the D.C. Metro, Washington’s subway system that normally shuts down at Midnight on weeknights, actually extended service by an hour as a result of the game. (Surely the WMATA owes Marian Gaborik a multitude of thanks for ending the game when he did, thus avoiding a potential transportation quagmire if the game crept closer to 1 AM).
Overtime started with Henrik Lundqvist slashing Dan Girardi across the bridge of the nose in the first extra frame. Girardi left a trail of blood on the ice that was still visible several minutes later – around the exact same time that he returned from the locker room stitched up and ready to return.
Not long after that came the moment where the hearts of many Rangers fans likely came to a Homer Simpson-esque halt when Alexander Ovechkin picked up a brutal turnover from Anton Stralman and rang it off the post – a shot that tricked the Verizon Center arena operators into setting off spotlights and the Capitals’ police siren of a goal horn. No goal.
Then Brian Boyle took a puck to the chin only to leave the ice before returning a few minutes later, blood-stained jersey and all.
Boyle would prove to be in the spotlight again in the second overtime when Mike Rupp’s shot on goal appeared well on the way to beating Braden Holtby, only to hit off the ample posterior of Boyle, positioned right in front of Holtby, while temporarily delaying victory for the Rangers.
Yeah, this was a weird game.
A game that seemed to have roughly six whistles the entire night. Stretches of four and five minutes without a stoppage of play were commonplace over the course of the entire game, which is why it shouldn’t be a surprise that the Rangers’ power play at the start of triple overtime appeared to have moved in slow-motion.
The Caps’ penalty killers were practically hunched over while the Rangers’ power play unit, despite not letting the puck leave the zone for the duration of the power play, moved with the speed of a two-toed sloth as they rang shots wide of the net. Fatigue was clearly setting in.
But finally, at 14:41 of the third overtime, with quadruple overtime seeming to be a realistic possibility, Brad Richards, 14 minutes removed from his 32nd birthday in the Eastern timezone, set up behind the net to deliver a pin-point pass to Gaborik on the doorstep. Game over, streaks over, Rangers win.
Onto the stars of the evening/morning:
Ryan Callahan – Apparently Callahan was credited with only five official blocked shots. Let’s put it this way: if aliens attacked Washington, D.C. the way they did in the movie “Independence Day”, there’s a good chance Callahan would have blocked some sort of ray gun as well. The man was in front of everything, to the point where he even blocked a shot without his stick. Nights like this make it pretty clear that this man was the right choice for captain of this team.
Dan Girardi and Brian Boyle - I’ve never quite understood why so many Rangers fans have such a vicious dislike of the Knicks. They both play at the Garden, they’re both owned by Cablevision and players from both teams are fans of the other teams. That said, it’s worth noting that Amar’e Stoudemire likely will not play again in their series after punching a fire extinguisher, while Girardi and Boyle played the final two periods of overtime with stitches and blood-soaked uniforms. Slight difference between the sports. Or really, hockey and any other sport. And yes, Boyle gets mentioned here even though his hindquarters nearly cost the Rangers the win.
Henrik Lundqvist – 45 saves on 46 shots, including several key saves in overtime to keep the game going. Erased some of his playoff overtime demons with tonight’s win. It can’t be overlooked that Holtby, with 47 saves on the night, was outstanding in goal for the Capitals as well.
Ryan McDonagh – Five Rangers’ skaters logged at least 41 minutes of ice time tonight, but McDonagh was the only one with over 50 – yes, FIFTY – minutes, clocking in at 53:17. McDonagh’s typically strong defensive play, shot-blocking and offensive chances highlighted yet another above-average performance.
Jim Ramsey – As mentioned by our very own Adam Herman, if not for his rapid stitch jobs on Boyle and Girardi, the Rangers would have been down two of their most important players for significant stretches of overtime. Trainers around hockey earn their money more than ever come playoff time.
Thus ends the insanity that was Game 3 of the 2012 Eastern Conference Semifinals.
Yes. That’s all we’re up to. Seems like it’s been a bit longer, doesn’t it?