Crash the net all you want – you’re not going to get under Michal Neuvirth’s skin! Building on the momentum of their Game 4 comeback, the Caps sent the Rangers packing back to Broadway with a 3-1 victory at the Verizon Center this afternoon in a game that was as physical as it was intense. With the Caps’ big three of Mike Green, Alex Ovechkin, and Alex Semin all tallying scores today, Washington erased some of the nasty memories of last year’s first round loss to Montreal as they advanced to the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Grateful for the team’s effort and energy, the Verizon Center crowd was rockin’ today, as the Red Faithful serenaded the visitors with chants of “We are louder!”, responding to the MSG taunts from earlier in the week.
The Caps advanced to the second round for the second time since the 1998 playoffs, when they advanced to the Stanley Cup Final. The Capitals showed the killer instinct necessary to end a series quickly, let’s hope they can replicate this in Round 2.
More like “The Great” today. Michal Neuvirth has made it his personal agenda to silence any doubters that were calling for the Caps to pull off a trade for a veteran netminder at the deadline in February. Winning his first NHL playoff series with a stellar league-leading playoff GAA of 1.38, Neuvy came up big with some flashy saves to punctuate his efforts over the last five games.
The Caps defense, shortened to a five-man rotation after a Mike Green injury, shut down the Rangers today and in the series, proving that the new defense-first approach can pay dividends in the playoffs.
The Caps offense also showed up in a big way today. Green started the scoring with a Power Play goal in the first on an assist from Alex Ovechkin and Brooks Laich. Ovechkin followed up with the second score of the game at the 07:04 mark in the second period. Ovie made up for his one-on-one breakaway miss in overtime of Game 4 against Rangers’ with a streaking backhand goal past Lundqvist after beating Marc Staal down the wing. Ovechkin’s fellow Russian winger, Alex Semin, sealed the deal with a one-timer on a perfect saucer pass from the speedy Marcus Johansson, who continues to prove his worth and his skills in his first playoff campaign.
Maybe it’s just the jubilance of the opening series victory, but not much bad can be said about the Caps performance today other than the fact that they weren’t able to stave off the advances of the six-man attack to seal a shutout for Neuvy in the final minute of the game. The Caps did effectively prevent any celebration following the goal, though, as John Erskine and Ruslan Fedotenko got into it and were both sent packing with offsetting roughing penalties. The Rangers also saw Sean Avery and Bryan McCabe get tossed with 10 minute misconduct penalties at the 19:28 mark for their involvement in the extracurricular activities.
Rock the Red-Cross. The Caps early advancement to the next round will hopefully provide them with some time to mend and get healthy for their next opponent. With Mike Knuble and Dennis Wideman already out the of the lineup nursing their own injuries, the Caps had a bit of a scare when Mike Green took yet another shot to the head today as he slid to block a shot late in the first period. Green didn’t skate another shift after the injury, although he did return to the bench and skated during timeouts, which is a good sign for the oft-injured defensemen.