About halfway through the third period of the Capitals and Rangers series opener, Capitals fans started feeling the same disappointment that they have felt for the past few post-seasons. But things changed in a hurry.
Alexander Ovechkin found the back of the net at 13:44, finally solving Rangers’ netminder Henrik Lundqvist for the Capitals’ first goal of the game. The Capitals continued pressing for the winner in the third, but the dazzling play of Lundqvist and his defense would not allow any more goals in regulation.
Alexander Semin struck at 18:24 of overtime, after teammate Jason Arnott batted down a Marc Staal clearing-attempt and slid the puck to Semin who one-timed the shot from beyond the hashmarks. It was Semin’s first goal in 14 playoff games.
The most amazing part of Washington’s victory is that it was not won by swarms of offense by Ovechkin and company. Rangers defenseman Matt Gilroy stunned the Capitals crowd early in the third to take a 1-0 lead, but after that the Capitals settled down and won this game by a well-balanced attack and commendable defensive play.
Washington goaltender Michal Neuvirth only had to make 25 saves on the night, earning the 2-1 victory. Rangers sniper Marian Gaborik was stopped on four shots, and Gilroy’s attempt for the game-winning goal early in overtime resulted in a point-blank save by Neuvirth.
The Washington defense limited Gaborik’s shots to jam-away chances in front of Neuvirth. Capitals defensemen Scott Hannan and Jeff Schultz kept Gaborik from setting up in the slot most of the game, which will be key if the Capitals plan to win this series.
The Capitals also might have had their spirits lifted with star-defenseman Mike Green returning to action after missing 6 weeks with a concussion.
“I thought his first period might have been as good as he’s played in a playoff game,” Washington Head Coach Bruce Boudreau said of Green. “I thought it was outstanding for a guy that hasn’t played in six weeks to come back in a game like that.”
Green played 26:30, ranking him third among Capitals defenseman. He had four shots on goal and assisted on Ovechkin’s third period tally.
If the Capitals can continue to work hard in their own end and force turnovers in the offensive zone, this may be the year that all Capitals fans have been waiting for.
Quotes courtesy washingtoncapitals.com.