Those of you following the Washington Capitals since 1974, or at least since the 1980’s, knew the odds were not good when game three of this playoff series went to triple overtime. Team history said Washington was 0-3 in such affairs, losing in 1987 to the Islanders, 1996 to the Penguins, and 2003 to the Lightning. You can add the Rangers to the list of victors as Marian Gaborik tallied with 5:19 remaining in the third overtime period to give the Blueshirts a 2-1 series lead. Game four is on Saturday at the Verizon Center and is nearly a must win for the Capitals.
As I blogged after Monday night’s Washington victory, this series is razor tight. Both teams are very evenly matched and game three was no exception. It was a game either team could have won with the best overtime chances coming from Alexander Ovechkin, who hit the post in the first OT, and Mike Rupp, who shot it off of teammate Brian Boyle when he seemed to have an open cage. The Rangers also had two power plays in the extra frames. Things pretty much disintegrated in the sixth period of the night and it was going to take a great individual effort to end it. Brad Richards did that by skating through four Caps to start the sequence where Gaborik tallied.
It was the third home playoff loss in four tries this spring and it was the third straight loss at home in games that go to overtime. The Caps need to be better at home and so far 1-3 doesn’t cut it. In addition, despite some great penalty killing in overtime, they lost the game on special teams as the Blueshirts tallied on one of their man advantage situations while the Caps failed to click with the extra attacker.
As I’ve said all series, special teams and the breaks will decide this matchup and the team that goes to the net the best will win. The Rangers did that a little bit better on Wednesday and they have a chance to take a commanding lead on Saturday afternoon.
For the Caps, they have two days to regroup. Dale Hunter put Nicklas Backstrom, Ovechkin, and Marcus Johansson together in an attempt to get more goals but the problem with that line is they tend to be weaker in their own zone and they rely too much on overlaps and drop passes for goals instead of getting bodies to the cage. Ovechkin’s best chance to score came on the forecheck. The Gr8 fanned on several one time tries so he needs to realize that the way to win is to get to Henrik Lundqvist’s doorstep.
If he doesn’t start doing that, then this season could once again end with one of these nasty triple OT or more games coming back to haunt this franchise that seems to be continually tortured.