Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Eastern Conference Semifinals Game 5: Rangers 3 - Capitals 2 (OT)

The Hockey Gods hate the Washington Capitals.

What else is one left to conclude after last night’s 3-2 overtime loss to the New York Rangers in Game 5 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series? It wasn’t enough that the Caps gave up a lead in the last 6.6 seconds of regulation, they would do it having to kill a penalty taken in the last minute. And not only would it be a penalty, but a penalty on the hero of the opening round – Joel Ward – who took a high-sticking penalty on Carl Hagelin, who was in the box in Game 4 when the Caps scored their own game-winning power play goal in Game 4. Not only was it a penalty, it was a double-minor that would give the Rangers two bites at the apple, as it were. They would make good, scoring the tying goal with 6.6 seconds left, and then the winner just 1:35 into overtime. And in typical fashion, harkening back to overtimes past, the goalie – this time Braden Holtby (although it could have been Bob Mason or Olaf Kolzig) “didn’t see a thing” as the puck fired by Marc Staal hit a Cap on the way through, and it went by to seal the win for the Rangers.

How cruel does it get?

Other stuff…

-- The Caps have become a pretty good defensive team, but they are really pushing the concept in this respect. The Rangers had 78 shot attempts to the Caps’ 35. The Madison Square Garden facilities staff barely had to resurface the ice in the Ranger end, especially after the first period when the Rangers held a 17-4 edge in shots.

-- Matt Hendricks was 9-for-9 on faceoffs in Game 4. He was 5-for-8 in this game, 4-for-6 in the defensive zone. He lost the draw to John Mitchell that set the last moments of the game in action. It was the only draw Mitchell took against Hendricks in the game.

-- This was the first game in which a team taking a lead was overtaken by the opponent, and it happened twice, thus preserving the fact that the team scoring first wins.

-- How many times will you see Alex Ovechkin go an entire playoff game without a shot on goal? This would be the second time, the first coming in Game 1 of the opening round series against Montreal in 2010.

-- Not an especially productive night for the Core Four – one assist (Ovechkin), 3-for-10 on draws (Backstrom), a penalty (Green), and a lot of shots directed at the net with – again – nothing to show for it (Semin, six attempts, three on goal).

-- The penalty killers picked the wrong time to go scrambly, but that’s what happened in tight in those last furious seconds of regulation. Two Caps and goalie Braden Holtby were pinned to one post as the puck squirted out the other side, right where Brad Richards was standing all alone. You don’t need to pay a guy a gozillion bucks to bury it from there.

In the end, the obvious narrative take away from this game is that the Caps lose in just about the cruelest manner imaginable, and it is the last gasp for their season. Who could come back from this? But they came back from a triple-overtime loss to beat the Rangers on Verizon Center ice once. They can do it again. They have to…

…it’s a must-win game now.

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