|Yes, I know the quality is bad. Do I care? Probably not.|
Both teams got off to good starts, garnering chances in the opening two minutes, but could not convert as both Henrik Lundqvist and Michal Neuvirth made solid first saves. As the early stages of the period continued, both teams continued to get chances at both ends, but solid defensive play by both teams, particularly in the neutral zone, limited odd-man breaks. At 7:06, Brian Boyle was sent off for goalie interference when he literally decked Neuvirth, sending DC to their first power play of the game. On their man advantage, Washington got off to a slow start and never really achieved momentum or zone time; New York was able to kill off the minor easily. Immediately after, Boyd Gordon was boxed for tripping in the offensive zone at 9:46. The New York power play got great chances with zone time but timely shot blocks and some luck kept the puck out of the DC net. After the penalty ran out, both teams got quick chances, but Alex Ovechkin fanned on a shot in front, and then a minute later Marco Sturm was called for interference at 16:21. On this power play the Rangers got no shots and the Caps were able to keep the pressure off, resulting in a successful kill. Immediately after, Brian Boyle was called for another goalie interference call at 18:55; the Washington power play got better zone pressure but was not able to score in the remaining minute and 3 seconds. Alex Ovechkin took an interference call with two seconds left, negating the rest of the power play, and the first period ended tied at 0.
With 55 seconds of four on four to open the second period, the Rangers took advantage early and got a nice chance early that was stopped by Neuvirth, and then the New York power play commenced. The Rangers got few chances on their man advantage but Matt Gilroy was sprung on a breakaway just after it expired that Michal Neuvirth had to be excellent on. Mike Green was called for a penalty soon after, a trip, and 2:56, and the Rangers set it up again. New York had another brilliant set of chances but Washington was able to kill it off. But the Rangers broke through at 5:24 with another impossible angle goal when Artem Anisimov banked one in from almost behind the goal line. Washington was kept totally on their heels by relentless Ranger forechecking as the period continued, and had no answer. The Caps tried to set up some zone time after the goal, but simply could not, and the Rangers had all of the momentum in the middle part of the period. New York continued to dominate and Michal Neuvirth made several great saves to keep it a one goal deficit. But the Rangers scored two goals in seven seconds immediately after, one off the stick of Marian Gaborik and then Brandon Dubinsky to take a 3-0 lead at 13:40 and then 13:47, respectively. The Caps kept trying to come at the Rangers but simply could not get anything going, with Lundqvist making several nice saves. Alexander Semin was boxed for boarding at 19:16, but the rangers were not able to score on the power play to close out the frame and it ended with New York leading 3-0.
On the power play to start the third period, the Rangers got a few shots early but were not able to add another marker. Clearly desperate, the Caps tried to get something going, and were rewarded when Alexander Semin stole the puck and poked it past Lundqvist at 2:47. Then Marcus Johansson cut the lead to one less than a minute later, putting one into the goal on the doorstep at 3:44. John Tortorella called timeout and then the Rangers came hard again, relying on Neuvirth to make another potentially game-saving stop with about 14 minutes left. Washington began to try and regain control as they attempted to generate more chances to tie, and were given a power play at 10:03 when Sean Avery was given the gate for slashing. On their man advantage, the Caps got some shots up high but again Lundqvist was excellent and DC could not score on the power play; but John Carlson took a bomb towards the net just after the power play expired that was tipped by Johansson to equalize at 12:07. Immediately after the goal, however, Boyd Gordon was called for another penalty at 12:48 to send DC shorthanded again. Washington killed off the penalty however, and they were aided by two brilliant saves from Michal Neuvirth in front to keep the game tied. As the late stages of regulation approached, New York came hard again at the Caps, forechecking down low and generating chances, but DC was able to hold them off and the game moved to overtime, tied 3-3 after regulation.
Both teams came out strong in the first OT, getting chances early but really trying to control the pace of play defensively to start. The Rangers began to control as the early stages of OT wore on, however, getting the better chances and controlling the puck for long stretches in the offensive zone. The Rangers continued to get the better chances with close-range shots as the middle stages of the extra frame approached, with DC playing solid defense. Washington got a few chances with abut 12 minutes left, but they were both snuffed out by Lundqvist as well. Past the midway point, with 8:59 left, Alex Ovechkin was sent in on a breakaway but he was stoned by a magnificent Lundqvist save to keep the game going. After Bruce Boudreau was forced to call his timeout with 7:05 remaining following a Caps icing, the New York kept coming and got a great chance in front but Neuvirth was again there to keep it out. With 5:16 remaining, the Caps were given a power play when Derek Stepan shot the puck over the glass, resulting in delay of game. Washington got great chances during the first minute of their man advantage but could not break through; Lundqvist continued to play out of his mind. As the first OT drew to a close, both teams came close again but could not break through, and it ended still tied at three.
In the second OT period, Alex Ovechkin got a chance early but was again denied by a great Lundqvist save. Washington continued to play well in the early stages, but Lundqvist kept coming up with stellar stops to keep the game going. Washington was finally called for a penalty at 5:21 for too many men, giving the Rangers a critical power play. More close calls abounded during the man advantage, but DC was again able to hold off New York. As the middle stages of the period approached, the Rangers began to pick up their play again and had the Caps pinned in their zone for extended periods. But Washington finally caiught their break when a freak bounce put a puck on Jason Chimera's stick in front, and the maligned winger buried it for a 4-3 win just over 12 minutes in.
Be still my heart. I was totally convinced after forty minutes that the Caps were going to let this one slip away and waste another 2-0 series lead, as has been their all-too-repetitive history. But this team showed unbelievable resolve, battling back against a brutal crowd, a shot-blocking army, and one of the best goaltenders in the world to steal this game. They continued to battle despite many amazing saves from Lundqvist, and they never gave up. For this one night at least, I am very proud to be a Washington Capitals fan.
Michal Neuvirth deserves a cookie, or a beer, or at least a hug, from every single player on the Caps. The young Czech was unreal throughout the entire game; he had no chance on any of the goals that he allowed. He made big save after big save in all five periods, and he was the only reason the game wasn't 4 of 5 to zero after 2. #TeamNeuvy.
Jason Chimera played a great game tonight, and not just because he scored the game winning goal. Number 25 used his speed well all night and he was a huge factor once he was moved to the third line with Johansson and Fehr. That line has great potential and we saw why for the final 50 or so minutes of this game. I do hope jolly old Santa Claus keeps them together.
Without a doubt, the Capitals have earned a day off and will likely not practice tomorrow. They will return to the ice Friday in preparation for Saturday's game five, which will be back inside the friendly, loud, confines of the Phone Booth.