Green fiiiiires….SCAAAR! (Greg Fiume, Getty)
The Washington Capitals won game two of their 2013 Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the New York Rangers on Saturday afternoon, prevailing 1-0 in overtime on a Mike Green power play goal. Both teams generated chances constantly during the game and the only reason that the contest remained scoreless as long as it did was the stellar play of Braden Holtby in Washington’s net but particularly Henrik Lundqvist, who rebounded from a below-par game (for him) on Thursday to nearly steal a result for his team in this game. Holtby finished the game with 24 stops for his first career playoff shutout as Washington took a 2-0 lead in a playoff series for the first time since the Conference Quarterfinals in 2011, when they also played the Rangers and won a series in five.
How about Mike Green. Perhaps no player on the Capitals has caught more flak than Green over the last three years other than Alex Ovechkin, and Green has spent the last three months thumbing his nose at those critics in a tremendously entertaining and thrilling fashion. Even when Green was putting up 65 points a season, he was ripped for all of the things that he didn’t do. Now, he’s returned to his form as one of the best pure offensive defensemen in the game, and it’s not just because of this goal, his first career playoff overtime winner. He’s been dominant consistently over the last two months and has gotten the offensive results to prove. I’ll never forget that I was once told the Caps should trade him for Douglas Murray – and that would be a steal for Washington.
Mike Ribeiro has had a bit of a quiet last two weeks in terms of getting on the score sheet but his play today to set up the game-winning goal deserves a giant gold star. Alone on the point, Ribeiro walked in, faked his defender out with a pump, and dished to Green, who rifled home a one-timer. It was an up and down game from Washington’s second line center, who made some very ill-advised plays in his own zone earlier that almost led to goals against. Still, his pass allowed the game winning play to happen and the rest of his game will be overlooked because of it. For the Caps to go deep in to the playoffs, Ribs must improve his even strength play.
Braden Holtby was once again very good in net for Washington, stopping everything that he saw and getting the Caps a win. It seems like before every game he plays, particularly in the playoffs, fans of the opposing team and Rangers fans say that he can’t possibly continue to play as well as he has and he is bound to collapse, or that he just isn’t very good in general. And yet, the young Saskatchewan native continues to prove them all wrong and provide excellent goaltending for this Capitals team as they try and make a deep run in to the playoffs for the first time in more than a decade.
Much maligned for the entire regular season (for good reason), the Capitals’ penalty kill has been perfect through two games in this series and has been a big part of the Caps gaining momentum. I said in my series preview that the Caps had the special teams advantage in this series because the Rangers’ power play wasn’t good enough to consistently make Washington pay when they took penalties while the Capitals’ was, and that’s the way the game has shaken out so far. The Caps have taken advantage of the power plays they have been given, scoring a man advantage goal in either game, while keeping New York out of the back of their net while down a man. They have to keep that going to win the series.
Overall, this was another impressive win for the boys in red, who continue to prove just about everyone wrong by winning games consistently. The Capitals absolutely dominated overtime, getting eight shots while preventing New York from getting one, and made Ryan McDonagh pay for a delay of game penalty after a long shift that lasted over three minutes. Having killer instinct and cashing in on chances consistently is still something that Washington needs to work on, but they did it tonight and took a nice cushion with them up the Northeast corridor to the World’s Most Famous Arena. The Rangers will no doubt come out very, very hard for that game in front of their home fans, and it will take a profound effort, as well as great bench management from Adam Oates to help avoid some matchups, to draw out a 3-0 series lead. Onward.
Game three is Monday night at 7:30 PM from Madison Square.
Harry Hawkings is a college student credentialed to cover the Capitals for RtR. Follow him on Twitter here for all your news needs this season.