Triple Slammed: Rangers 2, Capitals 1 (3OT)

In an epic game that will surely be remembered for its length and intensity, the New York Rangers took game 3 with triple overtime tap-in from Marian Gaborik.  It was the Slovakian 40-goal scorer’s first goal in 10 games, and his teammates streamed off the bench to congratulate him.  With both teams weary from the exhaustion of playing 115 minutes, the Rangers’ big guns made the play, with #1 defenseman Dan Girardi getting the puck behind the goal to #1 center Brad Richards, who centered to Gaborik for the 5-hole shot that pierced the otherwise unflappable Braden Holtby.  The Rangers have taken back home ice advantage and now hold a 2-1 series lead. 

If this game is a harbinger of anything, it is that teams that win long overtime games like this almost always go on to win the series, which does not bode well for the Capitals.  Both sides have players who are depleted emotionally and physically now, many of whom needed stitches on their faces.  This could be the turning point of the series. 

The game, including all the overtimes, was characterized by lots of flow and chances at both ends, but also a bevy of blocked shots, brutal body checks, and blood.  As the overtimes wore on with the score tied at one, the missed opportunities from both sides were magnified.  Alex Ovechkin hit a post that set the siren off, Troy Brouwer missed a golden chance from 5 feet out on a great hustle play from Matt Hendricks, Rangers forward Mike Rupp hit his own teammate in front of an otherwise wide open goal.  The Capitals even killed off two powerplays in extra time, one in the first overtime and one in the third. 

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(Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

This hockey game featured huge numbers.  The Capitals were outshot 49-46, the teams combined for 81 blocked shots, and the Caps out-hit the Rangers 59-46.  Alexander Ovechkin won’t complain after getting 35 minutes of ice time, but that’s nothing compared to Ryan McDonagh’s 53.  The big problem is the little number, just 1 goal for the Capitals in 115 minutes.

The other major trend in this game, with the exception of the fourth line, was bad judgment in executing offensive chances for the Capitals.  Countless times during the game they passed when they had the chance to shoot, they passed to the wrong man, they didn’t get to the net, and on.  The chances were there, but the Capitals forwards were their own worst enemies in this game. 

Unlike the previous two games of the series, the beginning of this game featured wide open play with both teams gunning for an early lead.  The Rangers were shooting at Caps goalie Braden Holtby from all angles, and the Capitals were shooting at will.  The Capitals fed off the energy of their home crowd, getting a number of chances and forcing Henrik Lundqvist to make some very nice saves.  Through to the middle part of the opening frame, Washington continued to carry the play and occupy the zone for extended stretches.  New York, however, would not buckle under the pressure.

After the ten-minute mark of the period, the game moved in to a more back and forth pace, and Lundqvist had to be sharp again on shots from Marcus Johansson and Alex Ovechkin.  But the Rangers pushed back admirably and tested Holtby a few times.  It was the Capitals, however, who earned the first power play of the game after a Marc Staal slash.  New York got an early shorthanded break on their penalty kill, but after that, the Caps set up a dominant stretch of zone time that did not result in a goal because of Lundqvist’s excellent play.  The period closed on a furious back and forth pace, tied at 0-0.

At the beginning of the second period, Washington kept up their pace of play, getting a good amount of shots on Lundqvist, including a beautiful two-on-one break from Matt Hendricks that the Hart and Vezina Trophy nominee had to make a stellar pad save on.  With six minutes gone in the frame, the Rangers got their first power play of the game when Brooks Laich was called for hooking down Marian Gaborik.  The Rangers made it count, and the Capitals allowed only their second powerplay goal of the series.  A point shot from Michael Del Zotto bounced off two Capitals to land in the wheelhouse of captain Ryan Callahan, and he made no mistake, burying the loose puck in front for a 1-0 lead.  Even after they scored, the Rangers continued to tilt the ice in their favor.

Past the midway mark of the period, the Capitals finally began to push back.  They were able to get their tying goal after 11 minutes when John Carlson dangled through the defense in the attacking zone and ripped a wrist shot over Lundqvist’s right shoulder.  Washington then got a power play less than a minute after their goal, but were unable to capitalize on that opportunity to give themselves the lead for the first time in the game.  After the power play, however, the hosts began to dominate, and it was only three miraculous saves by Lundqvist that kept the game tied.  Despite some Rangers pressure at the end of the frame, the second period closed with both teams at a goal apiece.

The third period featured more of the same, plenty of chances, but no goals.  Fourteen minutes into the third, Mike Kunble got tagged for a goalie interference penalty while crashing the net, but before that penalty was over Brad Richards tripped up Roman Hamrlik in the offensive zone.  The Capitals were completely inept on their last powerplay of the night, and that ineptitude played a big role in their inability to score in the remainder of the game. 

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