Remember “24″ on Fox? Jack Bauer frantically trying to save the world as the clock ticks down to the bottom of the hour. Last night at Madison Square Garden delivered the most frantic final push of the post-season and it was all capped by Marc Staal’s Power Play goal less than two minutes into overtime. In a pivotal Game 5, the New York Rangers pulled a 180 on the Washington Capitals giving them a 3-2 lead in the best of Seven.
The key play of the game was within the final thirty second. Down 2-1, Brad Richards won a face-off back toward Michael Del Zotto, but Capitals‘ hero Joel Ward high-sticked Rangers Carl Hagelin in the face. The act drew blood and required a four minute double minor. It would only matter if the Rangers could score in the next 21 seconds. After the Rangers gain control, Michael Del Zotto wristed a shot toward the net that Ryan Callahan deflected the shot that Caps goalie Braden Holtby stopped, but couldn’t control. Callahan took two more swipes at putting the puck by Holtby until Richards snuck it and batted the loose puck into the net to tie the game. Richards not only beat Holtby, but Capitals’ defenseman John Carlson, who slid into the crease for added support.
In Overtime, the Rangers did pressure the Capitals on the second half of the double minor, but it wasn’t until Brian Boyle won a face-off back to Marc Staal. Staal wound and fired a slap shot that deflected off Cap Matt Hendricks as he was trying to block the shot. The puck found it’s way to the back of the net and ended the game.
This game was more than it’s final minutes. It was a tight-checking, shot-blocking, bruising game. The Capitals continued blocking far more shots than the Rangers (25-10), but the Rangers countered by firing shots from every angle on Braden Holtby as evidenced by the first goal. Defenseman Anton Stralman crept down the right wing boards and fired a low shot that went through several players, including Holtby. The Caps would answer on the Power Play as Alexander Ovechkin centered the puck that went off of Ranger Brian Boyle to Brooks Laich. The former first round pick shot glove side and tied the game. It wasn’t until the third when the Caps would take the lead. Troy Brower sent the puck back to Dennis Wideman, who faked a shot and fed it to John Carlson. Carlson one-timed the pass just off the glove of Rangers’ goalie Henrik Lundqvist. The Caps clamped down defensively and failed on a chance to extend the lead as Niklas Backstrom was stopped on a breakaway by Lundqvist (16 saves).
The Rangers did what they needed to: pepper shots on Holtby. The 36 regulation shots were the most they had in the series and (combined with the 25 blocks) most shot attempts overall. Marian Gaborik continues the trend since Game 3 of firing the puck. Another 7 shots on goal for the Rangers leading scorer, recovering from the two shot performance in Game 4. Richards was everywhere last night and the Rangers resiliency and tenacity showed…but that didn’t produce anything until a few seconds were left. The Rangers have proved that every second counts.
The Capitals have played this series like a boxer- taking punches and counter-attacking. To think the Rangers will have an easy time in Game 6 is laughable. The Capitals recovered from a Triple Overtime loss to even the series, but they had an extra day to rest. The Caps resolve will be tested again and it’s survived numerous times already in the playoffs. They survived an OT loss at home in a Game 6 to the Bruins and won a Game 7 in Overtime. Can the Caps comeback from this?