Let's start this whale of a postgame off by facing the facts. The Washington Capitals deserved to win this game. The Rangers gave up a 3-0 lead in the third period and were outshot 31-20 through the third period and both overtimes. The ending, as it played out, was extremely unfortunate and not the way you want a game that contained such a high level of battle to end, but in this case, the better team won and I think we have to accept that as fans and the players need to do the same.
A three-goal second period gave the Rangers a tremendous lead going into the third that we thought had this series tied at two games apiece. Artem Anisimov got it started at 5:24 of the second when he scored his first career playoff goal by banking a shot in off Matt Hendricks' leg. Marian Gaborik and Brandon Dubinsky followed that up with back-to-back goals that were recorded seven seconds apart. Both goals were a result of the hard work of Ruslan Fedotenko, who retrieved the puck and made something out of it both times.
The inspiring effort by the Blueshirts in the middle frame had Madison Square Garden rocking with chants such as "Boouudreeaauu" and "Can You Hear Us?" in response to Washington's coach's comments about MSG and its fans earlier in the week. The Capitals definitely seemed rattled with all that was going on and I didn't expect a response out of them. I guess I couldn't have been more wrong.
Alexander Semin ignited the rally just 2:47 into the third period on a controversial play. Henrik Lundqvist had originally made the stop and had possession of the puck. With no whistle blown, though, Semin and Arnott continued to poke at the puck until it eventually ended up in the net. Lundqvist was arguing that there should have been a whistle on the play, and he is right, but just like Ovechkin's goal in Game 1, the Rangers need to wipe the crease clean there. Semin should not have been allowed to sit there and knife the puck out of Hank's equipment whether there was a whistle or not.
Less than a minute later, Marcus Johansson tipped Brooks Laich's shot to the back of the net and now all of a sudden it was a 3-2 game and the Garden grew very nervous. At 12:07, the Capitals tied the game as it was again Johansson at the side of the net who got a piece of John Carlson's point-shot to redirect the puck past Lundqvist. So, for the second time in the series, to overtime we went.
Washington controlled play in what would be the first overtime, outshooting New York 13-9 and pinning the Rangers in their own zone for long periods of time. Lundqvist stood tall to keep his team in it, especially when he was forced to stop an Alex Ovechkin breakaway in the second half of the period. That save had Richter on Bure in ‘94 written all over it.
Anyway, the Rangers did produce some good scoring chances in the first overtime, but you have to give Neuvirth some credit for making big saves. Their best chance, though, was probably Dubinsky and Gaborik's 2-on-0 that was ended by referee Paul Devorksi when he collided with Dubinsky just inside the zone. What could have been...
The second overtime was pretty much a replica of the first. The Caps were controlling and both teams were battling hard. The Rangers blew a powerplay opportunity at one point and that came back to bite them in due time. That time came at 12:36, when an unfortunate play would end the game and give the Capitals a 3-1 lead in the series.
A deflected shot bounced in on Henrik Lundqvist and just as he went to jump on the puck to stop play, Gaborik, coming back, poked it away from Hank and right into the body of Jason Chimera. Chimera easily settled the puck and guided it into the net to the utter shock of the Rangers and their fans.
Lundqvist's reaction, I think, said it all. After he raised his arms in disgust, he just sat there in the crease, eyes closed, bobbing back and forth. There really is no way to react to something like that. It stunned the entire hockey world to be honest.
Now let me make it clear that no one, I repeat, no one should be blaming Marian Gaborik for this loss. Yes, he should have backed off and allowed Lundqvist to play the puck there, but it is by no means Gaborik's fault that the team collapsed on a 3-0 lead. Instead, you should be looking at the seven failures to convert on the powerplay. That buried them more than anything.
The other major mistake they made was by entering the third period looking to defend the lead. The Rangers should have wanted more in that third period. Instead, they tried focusing on defense and even continued to do so when the game was 3-2. The Rangers were clinging to the lead, not looking to build on it, and that's where they ran into major trouble.
You have to give them credit for battling most of the way, though. You have Dan Girardi out there blocking nine shots like a freak of nature. You have Marc Staal completely taking Alex Ovechkin out of the game. Fedotenko showed that he is a veteran warrior with his effort. I mean, there were a lot of good things that went on tonight despite the collapse, but unfortunately it doesn't mean much in a game that the Rangers go home losers in, especially in the playoffs.
Now, going into Game 5 on Saturday, New York has to do what they have been doing for months. They have to play do or die hockey for the remainder of the series. Down 3-1, one more loss will end their season. They haven't had a problem responding to devastating losses all season long, so let's hope that holds true on Saturday.