Rumors of the Rangers demise were greatly exaggerated.
Coming off a disappointing loss on Monday to the Caps, a nervous crowd filed into MSG tonight hoping the Rangers could find a way to slow the momentum the Capitals had after their Game 3 win.
Sorry Alex, no chest bump tonight.
After playing their best game of the series, the Rangers are taking their 3-1 lead in the series back to the nation's capital.
The Rangers got off to their best start of the series in this game, showing great skating legs, and plenty of hitting, looking to set an early tone. For the first time in the series, it felt like the Caps were the team trying to survive the first five minutes. The Rangers were making a conscious effort to get the puck on the net from everywhere on the ice. Simeon Varlamov seemed a little unhinged early, but did settle down as the game went on.
Paul Mara put the Rangers ahead in the first, 14 minutes in, with a deflection on a shot off the faceoff. Rangers were called for 2 penalties in the period, but negated them both by drawing penalties that ended the kills.
The 2nd period started with the Rangers wasting another one man advantage, their second of the game, although their first was only about 30 seconds. After killing off a penalty, the Rangers got a goal from Captain Chris Drury. With the Rangers leading 2-0, it was Henrik Lundqvist Time.
I wonder if all the press the last two days about Simeon Varlamov left Henrik feeling almost like he had something to prove, because he sure played like it, I lost count of how many incredible saves he made in the 2nd period. The MSG chant of "HEN-REEK" seemed almost non-stop throughout. Rangers were badly outshot in the 2nd, 19-5, but Lundqvist kept them in the game.
Third period started out slowly. Rangers continued to be successful at getting the puck deep. Ovechkin then got his first goal of the series, jumping off a face off the Rangers won, and banking a shot past Lundqvist off the post, sending 18,200 into a nervous panic for the remainder of the game.
The Rangers at this point got a little lazy, sitting back, letting the Caps bring the game to them, the same recipe that got them their hats handed to them on Monday. This team still slips into "Henrik will save us" mode far too easily. Lundqvist finished with 38 saves, half of them in the 2nd period.
Lundqvist continued to bail out the Rangers in the 3rd, stopping Ovechkin on a laser shot with about 5 minutes to go. Ovechkin finished the game with an incredible 28 minutes of ice time, almost half the game. Only Mike Green logged more time on the sheet. Ovechkin also finished with 11 shots on goal. He is a guy you love to hate, but have to love to watch. Would it be accurate to say he is like Jagr in his youth, plus defensive ability?
Sean Avery could have cost the Rangers the game with an inexcusable high sticking penalty with 3 minutes to go. For 57 minutes he had played smart hockey, playing with speed, intensity and smarts. The Caps PP was picking up steam, and with the Rangers ahead by just a goal, it was just a dumb move by him. He definitely owes the PK unit dinner after they were able to kill it off. I spent most of the game thinking how wrong I was for suggesting the Rangers bench Avery, and then I spent those 2 minutes praying I wasn't right.
After Avery got out of the box, the Rangers were able to hang on for the last minute, and the Garden erupted. The crowd was phenomenal all night long, great job by Ranger fans. Although why did you guys keep chanting "tad-pole" after bad calls (or non-calls) by the refs? (and props to JoshNY for the "tadpole" reference)
All in all, a gritty, well played effort by the Rangers. Now the Caps face the daunting challenge of trying to climb out of a 3-1 hole.
Scott Gomez was sharp in Game One, but has been virtually invisible since. He seriously needs to get himself back into this series. As an alternate captain on this team, he needs to find his game.
Nikolai Zherdev, welcome to the dog house. 6 minutes of ice time, and he looks like he is just putting in shifts at this point. He's become a waste of a roster spot. I think it will be interesting to see if he plays Game 5, because the guy just doesn't get it. He isn't John Tortorella's type of player, and doesn't seem interested in becoming one.
Looks like Chris Drury is feeling better. After not taking any faceoffs in Game 3, he took some tonight.
Vs. coverage is usually not very good, last night it was just pitiful. Graphics popping up during game play that covered the screen, cutting to commercial during game play, and the announcers really don't know the teams that well. The NHL has to figure out a way to present its product better than this. There is nothing in sports better than NHL playoff hockey, and Vs. is killing it.
From our own 'XLII' in the Open Game Thread last night:
I’ve heard “Top 5 goaltender” all series long, but with this series Henry’s gotta be moving on up. If I needed to win a game, I’m taking Lundqvist. The only other goalie who has a case is Luongo right now.
I'll echo those sentiments.