The Rangers entered Game 3 finding themselves in a 0-2 hole, trailing the Washington Capitals in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. We all know what this team was expected to do. Pick up the 1st seed again, and compete for the cup.
That wasn’t necessarily the case as the Rangers found themselves battling for a playoff spot all year. Eventually though, they heated up in April and they captured the 6th spot in the Eastern Conference. Welcome to the dance.
The Blueshirts knew what they needed to do coming into this game. They knew that they would need to grind out a hard-earned victory if they wanted to turn the tide of the series. The opening stanza featured the Rangers with a pretty good start in my opinion. Until John Carlson fired a wrist-shot from the point which was deflected beautifully by Nick Backstrom.
Then, the Garden got completely silent. You could hear a pin drop. But, the tide turned after the Capitals took a bench minor for too many men. Mathieu Perreault went to the box and served the penalty. We finally saw John Moore getting powerplay time and he did not disappoint. The kid can skate and shoot the puck. He did both on his powerplay minutes. As Michael Del Zotto rushed up the ice carrying the puck, it eventually found it’s way to Brian Boyle, who skated into the slot and fired a shot which went through Mike Green‘s legs and went past Holtby’s outreaching glove. Boyle ended an 120+ minute goal drought, and it was his first of the postseason. As the period inched closer to the end, we saw more physical play from both teams and more back and forth play. Which coaches hate, but fans adore. The period ended with the teams knotted at 1 a piece.
As the Rangers took the ice for the second period, they themselves and the crowd knew that the game was starting to tilt their way. Rick Nash got the puck in the corner and looked to take it into the slot but he was tripped up by Braden Holtby. After a faceoff win the puck found it’s way to Mats Zuccarello, who dished a beautiful pass across to Derick Brassard who finished off the play to make it a 2-1 lead for the Blueshirts. About 10 minutes into the period I noticed that Alex Ovechkin was barely on the ice. That’s because the Capitals took 3 penalties and Ovechkin doesn’t play on the Caps’ penalty kill. The period was winding down, and everybody knew that the Caps have dominated the game 5 on 5 at this point. Well, speak of the devil, Mike Green ripped a wrister from the point which found it’s way through a sea of blue and white to beat Henrik Lundqvist high glove, which is where he gets beat on most goals against. The buzzer sounded, and the Rangers knew that the last 20 minutes would be the most important of the season for them. The pressure was on.
The Rangers entered the final stanza knowing that it was do or die. If they lost, they would be in a 0-3 hole which is almost impossible to come out of. Almost 3 minutes into the period, the fourth line went to work. They dumped the puck in and started working the Caps behind the goal line. Derick Brassard came out with the puck in the corner and fed a nice pass over to veteran Aaron Asham who rifled home his first of the postseason, making the score 3-2 in favor of the Rangers. The Caps would not go away though, as Jack Hillen took a quick shot right off the faceoff. The puck deflected off of Jay Beagle‘s knee and went low glove side past Lundqvist and the game was once again tied.
Spirits were still high though. The Blueshirts responded well as they continued to play physical and work their forecheck. This paid dividends as they once again worked the puck down low, and Nash set up Stepan for a deflection into the top shelf which made the game 4-3. The Caps would STILL not go away as Brad Richards was called for slashing Alex Ovechkin at 18:06 of the third period. Although Richards’ stick barely made contact with Ovechkin, and Ovie’s head went flying back as if someone punched him.
But, the Rangers overcame the adversity and put together a textbook penalty kill to end the game. They played a tight box and collapsed around Lundqvist giving the Caps little room to maneuver. When the final buzzer sounded, you could hear the huge sigh of relief let out by fans and players alike. A 4-3 final score has turned the series around and the Rangers are back in it.
Fun Fact: The Capitals are 4-5 in their postseason history when leading a series 2-0.
This game had crazy written all over it. The Rangers knew they needed a win or else they would be virtually sitting on the edge of the elimination cliff. Derick Brassard repsonded with a monster game (1 G, 2 A). Rick Nash had a quiet game with only 1 assist but 4 shots on goal. It seems as if the Capitals are really focusing their defense around stopping Rick Nash. Many times tonight he would try to enter the zone and immediately both defensemen would collapse on him. Henrik Lundqvist once again responded with 28 saves. His biggest one coming on Troy Brouwer who got a lot of a shot from the high slot and Hank made a beautiful reactionary pad save.
The only negative I would take from this game is the 5 on 5 action. The Capitals were shorthanded 6 times in this game tonight. But at even strength they showed that they are a very dangerous team. At times, the puck was always in the Rangers’ defensive zone and it was almost like a powerplay for the Caps. If the Rangers want to win this series, they are going to have to pick up their play at even strength. They can’t just rely on their powerplay to win them games and as Rangers fans we have seen that as a hit or miss.
Here are my personal three stars of the game:
Here are the game highlights from tonight’s action:
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