Welcome to Caps 'Round the Clock, a blog covering the Washington Capitals and the NHL. In season, I update the Blog after every practice and on game day with Caps news and information, and then provide a recap and analysis after each contest. I also write a periodical Prospect Watch and weekly feature pieces on the state of the Men in Red and other things Capitals. And of course, I will post videos and tidbits from around the League and offer my two cents as the season wears on. In the offseason, I write a Report Card for each player, and will keep you updated on all the news about the Caps through the summer. I'm glad you're here, and hope you come back!
Sunday, April 17, 2011
Rapid Rewind: Power Shift
The game got off to a rather slow start, as both teams aimed to get their footing early. The Caps got a good chance two minutes in when a Mike Green shot caromed around in front, but Henrik Lundqvist was able to cover up. Michal Neuvirth was forced into action immediately after when Matt Gilroy got a two-on-one break, but the rookie was able to swallow his shot in his chest protector. As the period continued, the Caps began to slow play down again, but the Rangers came at Washington with a fierce rush inside 12 minutes left that had the Caps on their heels. New York kept coming at the Caps full tilt, and it took some nice plays from the DC defense and Neuvirth to keep them off the board through the middle part of the frame. The Caps then came pressing with about six minutes left, and a flurry in front yielded them a power at 15:01 when Matt Gilroy was called for holding Boyd Gordon. On their power play, Washington got some zone time early and some quality chances, but were unable to break through as Lundqvist also made some quality saves. After the expiration of the penalty, the Caps took a penalty of their own at 17:20 when Matt Hendricks was whistled for interference. Mike Knuble then took a delay of game call only 35 second later, giving the Rangers a lengthly 5-on-3. But Washington got some heroic goaltending from Neuvirth to hold off the two man advantage, and then New York was called for another penalty when Erik Christensen was boxed for goalie interference at 19:43. The last 17 seconds of the period expired without incident, and the first period ended tied at zero.
On the power play for 1:44 to start the second period, the Capitals got very little zone time and wasted the first minute and ten seconds before Mike Green was called for a penalty of his own, a hooking minor at 1:29. After some uneventful four on four, the Rangers set up a power play and got some brilliant chances, but could not hit the net. Marcus Johansson then got a great shorthanded chance, but Lundqvist got his glove up in time to make a brilliant save. John Carlson was then called for cross-checking at 4:41, giving the Rangers another power play. Erik Christensen broke the deadlock at 5:30 with an impossible angle shot that beat Neuvirth short side, giving the Rangers the lead. DC had a great chance to break even under minute later, but Lundqvist was able to get across and make a great save on Alexander Semin to keep it 1-0. Washington got no breaks after that, getting called for another penalty when Alex Ovechkin was sent off for hooking at 8:50. DC was able to kill off the first part of the power play, but Scott Hannan was given the gate for holding with nine seconds left in the first penalty. Somehow, the Caps were able to kill off the penalties, and got a great chance as soon as the penalty expired but the shot was blocked by Dan Girardi. The Capitals continued to press, but were denied by Lundqvist twice more. But with a minute left, Alex Ovechkin tied the game with a nice tip in close off a Mike Green shot. But the Rangers came back hard, and it looked like Ruslan Fedotenko had scored to take the lead with one tenth of a second left. After a lengthly video review, however, the goal was waved off, and the period ended tied at 1.
The Rangers came out hard in the third, getting a great chance in the opening minute as Vinny Prospal let one go that was deflected in front but went just wide. The Rangers kept coming, clearly desperate, but slowly Washington was able to gain a little momentum. With about 15 minutes left, both teams got brilliant chances in close, including a 2-on-1 for the Caps, but great defensive plays at both ends kept the score tied. Inside thirteen minutes left, the Rangers set up a dominant offensive zone shift that finally ended with a goal when Prospal banged home a rebound from a Marc Staal shot at 8:41. And soon after, the referees called another penalty on the Caps, this one for tripping on Nicklas Backstrom at 9:13. Washington was able to kill off the minor, however, and began their charge to try and equalize once more. The Caps began to come full tilt at the Rangers, and finally were awarded their third power play of the game when Marian Gaborik was boxed for cross-checking at 13:38. After a bad first half of the man advantage, however, the Caps were able to equalize when Mike Knuble popped one home from his office at 14:48. With fewer than five minutes left, the game got a little chippy, and both John Carlson and Brian Boyle were called for matching minors at 16:45; the calls resulted in 4-on-4 hockey. With the extra space, the Rangers pressed in the offensive zone and broke through for a 3-2 lead when Brandon Dubinsky cashed a weird rebound with 1:39 left. Despite some desperation from the Caps late in the game, they could not draw even and the Rangers skated away with a critical game 3.
I am not usually one to complain about referees, but this was ridiculous. The Caps were called for several bush-league penalties that let the Rangers get the first goal and keep the Caps hemmed in their own zone for long stretches. This made it difficult for the Caps to get their big guns on the ice and gain momentum. Yes, the Caps got their second equalizer on a power play, but it was a blatant call and the Rangers at that point had already reaped the benefits of the calls.
The Caps' top defensive pairing did not have a good day. John Carlson was fighting the puck all day and took a stupid penalty late in the game that led to the four on four, which led to the winning goal for the Rangers. Karl Alzner was caught out of position twice on Rangers' goals as well. These two have been their best defensive unit all season long, and DC cannot afford a meltdown from them right now.
Overall, this was a slightly disappointing effort from the Capitals. They had some things go against them, and showed some resolve in the third period, but the fact remains that on paper, they are a better team than the Rangers, and they have to beat them. New York is missing their best skater in Ryan Callahan, as well. The Caps had a chance to put the series away, and they blew it with soft defensive coverage and an inability to cash good chances. Make no mistake, this is a series, and the Caps cannot let it go long. No lead is safe. Heaven forbid we find that out again.
The Capitals will return home this evening for the next two days to try and recover from this loss. They will practice the next two days at Kettler Capitals Iceplex before returning to New York for game three, which will be Wednesday night.