Before the game, Capitals winger Alexander Ovechkin guaranteed that his team would beat the New York Rangers and win game seven to advance to the Eastern Conference finals. He was wrong, and his team failed to walk the walk as he talked the talk.
The game, which featured back and forth action throughout, finished 2-1 in overtime. Derek Stepan scored the winner mid-way through the extra period. The Capitals played relatively well, but continued what was their main weakness in the series: beating Henrik Lundqvist. They only scored 12 total goals in the series, but still managed to take the NHL’s best regular season team to a game seven, thanks to the play of goalie Braden Holtby and the revamped defense.
They have taken plenty of teams to game sevens in the past, but never seem to win them. They are 1-4 at home in the deciding game since 2008.
In this game, they had plenty of opportunities to get goals. As the Rangers struggled with taking penalties in the first period, the Capitals were, for the most part, shut down by the penalty-killing of New York. The Rangers’ PK was clearly well-prepared for this matchup, as they shut down passing lanes and didn’t make any of the Capitals six power play shots particular hard for Lundqvist.
The Rangers defense was good, but they couldn’t defend against the first goal of the game, Ovechkin’s wrist shot finish.
Here’s a look at the play that led to the goal:
Ovechkin gained possession of the puck near the blue line, but ended up in a battle with a couple blue-shirts, as you can see in the picture. He squirted the puck out to Nicklas Backstrom, who immediately fired the puck to the corner, where Marcus Johansson was. As that was happening, Ovie cut around the defense to the goal, and Johansson made a beautiful centering pass that was finished over the glove of the Lundqvist.
The perfectly designed play gave Washington the lead for the rest of the first period, but after the visitors began to take a spree of penalties that allowed the Rangers to have three power plays in five minutes (stretching between two periods), the advantage wouldn’t last long.
The Rangers got goal from rookie Kevin Hayes to knot it up at 1-1.
A look at the development of this goal:
Ryan McDonagh got to the puck at the point, then shuffled to the slot where J.T. Miller was, and he zipped a pass to right in front of the crease, where Hayes had an easy time putting the puck past Holtby:
After that, it became a goaltending duel.
Both goalies performed a metamorphosis into a brick wall. By the end, Holtby had 37 saves and Lundqvist had 35. They put on a clinic for the fans at Madison Square Garden, and they forced everybody to stay up late and head into an extra period.
The first nine minutes of OT were business as usual, as neither team could find the twine despite plenty of chances, particularly from the Capitals. But that changed when Stepan became the hero.
After a couple of icings by the Capitals set up a face-off between Stepan and Eric Fehr in the Rangers offensive zone. Stepan won it to Keith Yandle back to his right at the top of face-off circle. Yandle slipped back to the blue line to defenseman Dan Girardi, who one-timed a slap shot off the pads of Lundqvist right to the waiting stick of Stepan. He flipped it into the wide open net won the game and series for New York.
A visual of the winner:
A game filled with chances, power plays, and many, many, saves finished a thrilling 2-1, not only allowing the Rangers to advance but crushing the Capitals hopes once again.
Credit all authors of images used in both article and as cover image : Harrison Hamm