Originally written on isportsweb.com  |  Last updated 5/3/12

The Capitals defeated the Boston Bruins in seven games in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals with every one of the seven games being won by a single goal and four of them requiring overtime.  Why would you expect the conference semifinals to be any different?  The answer is that you wouldn’t, and — so far — these games haven’t been.

The New York Rangers won the first game in Madison Square Garden with seeming ease, handing Washington a 3-1 defeat in which it was clear that the Rangers were the better team.  They outskated and outworked the Caps, and — despite being outshot by the Caps 18-14 — managed to put three of those 14 in the net, putting a real hit in Braden Holtby’s previously stellar save percentage.  At the point, many Washington fans cringed at the thought of another potential second round fiasco — last year, you might recall, the Tampa Bay Lightning swept the Capitals in the second round and went on to meet the eventual Stanley Cup Champions in the conference finals.

The second game of the series was another story.  The Capitals hustled for the full sixty minutes and managed a 3-2 win over New York in Madison Square Garden.  It was truly a team effort, and Washington controlled the puck well, winning both the takeaway and the giveaway battles.  And so, the Capitals returned home to Verizon Center having stolen the Rangers home ice advantage.

Last night, it took nearly six full periods of hockey for the Rangers to take that advantage back.  In front of another capacity crowd of 18,506 in Washington, these two teams battled to a 1-1 score at the end of regulation, with each team scoring a single goal in the second period.  Not one, not two, but three extra periods were needed to decide this one — with Marian Gaborik knocking home the game winner at 14:41 of the third overtime to give the Rangers the victory.  By that time, it was clear that both teams were exhausted, with many forwards having skated in excess of 30 minutes and several blue liners approaching 50 minutes.  There were 95 shots on goal and more than 100 hits during the 114 minutes of play.  Neither team left anything on the ice, and the loser deserved to win as much as the winner.  It was one of those games that made you proud to be a hockey fan, regardless of which team you were cheering for.

So where does that leave the Capitals?  They are now down two games to one with another game to be played in DC before heading back to New York.  This is familiar territory, in that it’s exactly what happened in the quarterfinal series against the Bruins.  What happened in that series — and what needs to happen on Saturday — is for Washington to win and send the series back to New York tied at two games apiece.  Can that be done?  Of course it can!  The Capitals need to come out strong and take the fight to the Rangers from the first drop of the puck.  If they do that convincingly, when Saturday’s game is complete, we’ll be down to a three game series against the Rangers to see who will compete in the conference finals.

Let’s Go Caps!

 

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