The Rangers entered Game 4 with that feeling of swagger about them. Coming off a huge 4-3 win over the Washington Capitals in Game 3, they knew that a win would be needed in the fourth game if they wanted to have a good feeling of confidence heading back to the craziness that is Verizon Center.
Madison Square Garden never fails to disappoint in the playoffs and Game 3 was no exception. As fans piled into their seats to watch their beloved Rangers, they were hoping that a win for the home team would be the outcome of Game 4.
The Garden was rocking as the puck dropped to begin Game 4 between the Rangers and Caps. John Tortorella must have done something in the locker room before the game because it looked like someone shot the Rangers out of a cannon. Their forecheck was relentless, they were physical, working the puck down low, and more importantly keeping tabs on Ovechkin who only has 1 goal in this series and that came back in Game 1. You felt something was bound to happen. The crowd was into it and the Rangers kept pouring it on. After the puck was dumped into the zone, it slowly rolled toward the goal line and Braden Holtby came out to play it. As he went to clear it up ice Taylor Pyatt made a beautiful play and batted down the puck and now the Rangers were staring at an empty net. Brad Richards potted it home and the Rangers struck first and were leading 1-0. One thing I noticed especially about this period was that the Rangers played much better 5 on 5 which was their achilles heel during the last game. The Rangers penalty kill was perfect as they killed off both of the Caps powerplays. Towards the end of the period, Stepan was skating down the left side with the puck as he was creamed by Ovechkin and Erat. They both served penalties as Ovechkin was called for charging and Erat was called for hooking. Erat was injured on the play and had to leave the game. The Rangers failed to capitalize on a 5-on-3 but still had 26 seconds of time left to work with in the 2nd period. The buzzer sounded and the Rangers were holding a 1-0 lead.
The period began with still 26 seconds of time left over for a 5 on 3 powerplay for the Rangers. They failed to cash in and the game remained 1-0. 10 minutes of play went by in the period and I felt that the Rangers were still the better team. They were sustaining pressure and working the Caps’ defense hard below the goal line. After Erskine took a roughing penalty on Callahan, the Blueshirts would once again get another powerplay opportunity. This one was really squandered as the Caps had more chances than the Rangers. But, Brassard picked up the Rangers and made a beautiful cross-ice pass to Carl Hagelin who blew a shot past Holtby to make it 2-0 for the home team. Then, the tide started to shift. The Capitals were starting to get more pressure and there was that sense that something bad was about to happen. Well, sure enough, Joel Ward was carrying the puck and as Michael Del Zotto lost an edge, Ward made a beautiful play and played it across to Mathieu Perrault who tapped it home to cut the lead in half. Then, the Capitals started to gain momentum and with about 40 seconds to play in the period the Rangers got pinned in their own zone. Troy Brouwer took the puck into the slot and rifled home a nice backhand shot to tie the game at 2. The Garden got completely silent. I’m sure Henrik Lundqvist wants that second goal back. The period ended with a scrum in front of Lundqvist and the Rangers would start the 3rd with a powerplay. It was another do or die period that would ultimately determine the series.
The Rangers were once again in the same position they were in during Game 3. Entering the third period with the series on the line. If the Rangers lost this game, they would be down 3-1 in the series heading back to Washington. The Blueshirts were once again shot out of a cannon for this period, as they cashed in on their powerplay chance and took a 3-2 lead. Then, shortly after, a beautiful tic-tac-toe play between Callahan, Stepan and Hagelin generated the fourth goal on the night for the Rangers. They regained their 2 goal lead and they tallied 4 goals in 2 straight games.
But, the Capitals once again showed grit and determination as they would not go down without a fight. Karl Alzner took a quick wrister from the point which may have been partially deflected off of Perrault, but the goal was credited to Alzner. It was 4-3 Rangers with about 13 minutes to play. From here on, the Rangers played hard, physical minutes as they shut down Ovechkin for the second straight game. The buzzer sounded, the crowd erupted, and we now have a series on our hands. The Rangers have tied the series at 2 and it is a best of 3 as it switches back to Washington for Game 5.
- In my opinion, this was the best game the Rangers have played so far in this series. Although they had some dry spells and defensive lapses, they still played a solid 60 minute game. Their forecheck was relentless, their penalty kill was once again perfect and Ovechkin was shut down.
- Derick Brassard followed up his Game 3 performance with another stellar performance. Notching 2 assists on the night. It looks as if Brassard is fitting in nicely with the Rangers and he has stepped up his game tremendously.
- Overall, the Rangers played a full 60 minutes and that is all that counts at the end of the day. They will head back to Washington with the series tied at 2. Which is better than being in a 3-0 or 3-1 hole, which at one point was looking like a dreaded possibility.
- Henrik Lundqvist again made timely saves and helped the Rangers to victory. Which seems like a daily thing now. It seems as if his mind is set on one ultimate goal: the Stanley Cup.
My personal 3 stars of the game:
3. Carl Hagelin
2. Anton Stralman
1. Derick Brassard
As always, thanks for reading us here at Blue Line Station. Be sure to follow me on twitter @a_graz24. I am always willing to discuss hockey and anything Rangers! Also be sure to leave a comment below using a variety of sign-in methods.