The Washington Capitals took a 3-2 series lead in the 2013 Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the New York Rangers on Friday night inside Verizon Center, winning 2-1 in overtime on a goal from Mike Ribeiro. Down early following a goal from Brian Boyle after less than a minute, the Capitals killed off four penalties in the first and second periods, dug in their heels, and slowly began to battle their way back. The tying goal came off the stick of Joel Ward on a power play in the second period before the two teams ground out the rest of regulation. Ribeiro cashed in down front in to an empty net after a Karl Alzner shot, pounding the loose puck past Henrik Lundqvist on Washington’s 35th shot of the night. Braden Holtby rebounded nicely, making 24 saves in the win.
The Capitals got off to a very poor start in this one, evidenced by Boyle’s goal after less than a minute, but settled down to absolutely dominate the Rangers in terms of even strength shots. The third period was particularly tilted in the Capitals’ favor, as they outshot the Blueshirts 13-4 in that frame and got chance after chance, only to be thwarted by Henrik Lundqvist. Regardless of the result, seeing such an encouraging even strength performance in terms of puck possession was encouraging to say the least, especially after the complete eggs Washington laid in New York in this regard. Now going back to Madison Square Garden for game six, they must maintain that pressure on the road in order to have a decent chance.
Mike Ribeiro had himself one hell of a game. Outside of the game-winning goal, his first of the playoffs and first in almost a month, he was plus-16 corsi, won 70% of his faceoffs, and was his agitating, slithering best all evening. This was his second point in the playoffs, and came after many called for him to step up following lackluster performances in games three and four (along with Nicklas Backstrom, for that matter). He is going to get paid this offseason. But for now, the Capitals should just enjoy what they have been able to get from Ribs on this one-year deal; he came through big time in the clutch tonight after a cold spell.
John Carlson had himself a very good game on Friday night; he was a force offensively and looked good in his own zone once again. Under fire for a majority of the early part of the regular season, Carlson turned it around in force once he got his legs under him during the regular season and has been very good for the Capitals in these playoffs. He’s answered the bell admirably in all situations and deserves to be commended for his work and improvement. Remember: “Even NHL referees think John Carlson will win the Norris Trophy one day,” – Elliotte Friedman.
Tom Wilson was not a factor in his NHL debut, which is both a good and a bad thing. In an uneventful 6:24 of ice time, he didn’t make any mistakes but also made precisely zero plays that seemed to justify him being in the lineup. Him playing more than five games is a very risky proposition in terms of his contract status, and Capitals fans must realize this; he should make a much bigger impact in order to keep his spot. But that’s for another day.
This game had the feeling of one of those in which the Capitals were going to dominate for a majority, including overtime, only to lose on a fluke goal by the opposition after a simply masterful performance from an opposing goaltender. And it was just that – Lundqvist was sensational, making save after save on odd man rush after odd man rush, especially in overtime. His saves on Alex Ovechkin, Mathieu Perreault, and then Ovechkin again had me seriously thinking that this was just not Washington’s night. But a dominant shift by the second line, with two great keep-ins by Mike Green, changed all that really quick. The Capitals now have a chance to close out the Rangers on Sunday, something they would be very wise to do with a potential game seven coming less than 24 hours. Make it happen.
Game six will be at 4:30 PM at Madison Square on Sunday.
(Thanks to Grant Paulsen for the idea).
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.