Caps Battle Back to Move On!!!
After attacking their way through game six, the Capitals aggressively forced a game seven. They came out hawkish and physical in game six in what turned out to be an easy victory.
That victory forced a do-or-die game seven back in Washington. Something had to give in this game as the red hot Capitals were only 1 and 4 in the clubs history when hosting a game 7. The Rangers were even worse as they entered Tuesday’s game winless in their previous four game seven road games. Who would change the trend?
Washington was hoping for a quick start but the first minute of the game was a terribly sloppy start as Varlamov appeared to be the only Capital player not overwhelmed by the pressure of playing in a game seven. He showed no nerves at all as he had two huge saves, one of which was on a breakaway, in the first minute of the game after two quick Capital giveaways.
They were then able to regain a little control as they had some early offensive flurries around the Rangers net but it seemed that the nerves got to their early passing as their passes were not as sharp as expected. This prevented the Capitals from finishing around the net as the early pressure resulted in no shots on goal for the Capitals.
As the Caps defense continued to struggle, their inability to come away with the puck from a corner scrum resulted in the Rangers first goal (an easy one) as Antropov put away an uncontested rebound from point blank range. The Rangers too, came out aggressively and confidently as though they were the home favorite riding a two game winning streak.
Varlamov continued to keep the Caps in the game as he continued to face an offensive onslaught from the Rangers as the tentative and nervous Capitals were dominated and overwhelmed early by a light skating and attacking New York team.
The Caps were out played so badly they did not register their first shot until the end of the Ranger dominated opening period. Though their shots were few, they were able to take advantage of one of the few Rangers mistakes late in the first period when Semin tied the game, scoring on an ugly but effective goal coming as a result of a Caps 3 on 2 break.
As the first period mercifully came to an end, I was left relieved to see the score tied at 1 as the Rangers outplayed and out hustled the Caps for most of that opening period. The Caps were clearly the team that was playing tight and looked to be very nervous out on the ice. This was one of their sloppiest periods of the playoffs. I was also hoping that we saw the best the Rangers had to offer and that a re-energized Caps team would have an offensive take-over right from the start of the second period.
After a nervous and tentative first period, which saw the Caps take less shots (2) then they had giveaways (7), the Caps seemed to have an early jolt in the beginning of the second as Lundqvist made a big save on Kozlov’s early scoring opportunity; all created by a forced turnover by Ovechkin. The Caps quickly matched their shot total from the entire first period only 2 and half minutes into the second period. That was about all the excitement the Caps would have in the second period.
After a flowing and exciting; back and forth but ultimately uneventful second period, the Rangers had to like the shape this game was taking. After 2 periods of hockey the Caps and Rangers were playing a low scoring 1-1 game.
The Rangers had to be ecstatic to be playing this style of game as they were able to hold the Capitals potent offense in check. Clearly by this point the Caps were hoping for an offensive explosion, like what occurred in games 5 and 6 that would have given the Capitals a comfortable lead to work with. That was not the case but the Caps were even at 1 and had the advantage of the home crowd eagerly waiting to get into the game. They were all on the edge of their seats waiting for the Capitals offense to give them a reason to explode. After 6 games and 2 periods of hockey, this series all came down to one final period off hockey. Winner Takes All!!!
The fans thought they would get that reason to explode early in the 3rd period as the Capitals went on a power play early on when Ovechkin was interfered with when trying to enter the Rangers’ zone. It turned out that the fans would have to wait for the excitement as the Rangers, aided by the leagues number one penalty killing unit, kept the Caps from getting that much needed power play goal.
The Capitals were able to capture some momentum on that power play and change the flow of the game. The Capitals became much more aggressive and were able to offensively dominate the entire final period of play. The chances were there but the Caps could not break past the wall known to be Lundqvist. They stayed persistent though and finally that persistence paid off as Fedorov scored while on a 2 on 2 break with Ovechkin with just under five minutes remaining in the game.
The offensive onslaught continued for the Capitals as Lundqvist stoned Semin with just under 3 minutes to go in the game. Ovechkin set up Semin beautifully, during a 2 on 1 break, but Lundqvist kept the Rangers in the games with an incredible save.
That save was in vain as the Capitals kept the offensive pressure on for the remainder of the game. The Rangers never got another scoring opportunity in the game as the Capitals overcame two tentative and sloppy periods of hockey to win the series with a 2 to 1 victory in game seven.
In the end, the Capitals were able to use an early cheap goal and a dominate 3rd period to propel themselves into the second round of the NHL playoffs. There they will meet the Pittsburgh Penguins.
With Varlamov on his game in the net, if the Capitals offense can string together three periods in a game like they played in that final period of game seven, they have shot at making this year a special year. One thing is for sure that with all the offensive talent that Pittsburgh has, the Capitals surely can not afford to be as careless with the puck as they were in the first 2 periods of game seven.
The playoffs move on and luckily for all of us, the Capitals are moving along with them!!!!