Game 3 loss shouldn't kill Caps momentum
New York Head Coach John Tortorella insisted to anyone who would hear him Monday morning that his Rangers were not that far off in this playoff series despite two setbacks in Washington. The Rangers players then went out and proved their coach correct with a gutsy performance in Game 3 from Madison Square Garden, winning a nail-biter 4-3.
These teams specialize in tight-knit, hard-fought playoff games against each other, although they are rarely as high-scoring as this one. Last year the Caps and Rangers took part in the first seven-game series in NHL playoff history that did not see either team score more than three times in any game. That would not apply tonight.
The Caps took the lead on a Nicklas Backstrom deflection in the opening period. John Carlson made sure to get his wrist shot from the point away quickly and as Backstrom was cruising through the slot he produced an aerial deflection that bounced down and past Henrik Lundquist.
The Rangers would knot the score late in the opening frame. Brian Boyle always seems to play well and be a factor against the Caps. The big center drove to the net from his off-wing and slipped a snapshot between the legs of a defender and past Braden Holtby on the short-side.
The Rangers were awarded a mind-numbing six power plays in the game’s first 30 minutes. Boyle’s goal came just as one of those expired, but New York’s next tally came with the man advantage and it happened fast.
Braden Holtby was called for tripping while trying to poke-check Rick Nash. Eight seconds later, Derick Brassard scored the first Stanley Cup Playoff goal of his career.
The Caps had the answer seemingly each time New York would take the lead.
Mike Green tied the count at two with a textbook snapshot over the glove of Lundquist at 17:19 of the second period, and that’s the way it stood after two.
Madison Square Garden would shake to the rafters again when Aaron Asham was left alone in front to roof his first of the playoffs at 2:53 of the third period.
Nothing came easily to the Rangers, as Washington mounted another rally. Jack Hillen sent an innocent-looking shot toward the cage from the left point that glanced off of Jay Beagle and past a startled Lundquist with 12:41 left in regulation time.
But this high-scoring affair was not going to end in another overtime session. Derek Stepan, who scored in all three meetings with Washington in the regular season, would take a centering pass from Nash and chip a backhand by Holtby with 6:25 to go in the third period.
The Caps would have one more really good chance to tie. Alex Ovechkin drew a penalty on Brad Richards with 1:54 to go. Coach Adam Oates would lift Holtby for an extended 6-on-4 power play in the dying stages of regulation time. Amazingly, despite a great deal of puck possession, the Caps were not credited with a shot on goal in the remaining time. The Rangers blocked everything off in front of Lundquist and held on for the 4-3 win.
Washington now leads the best-of-seven series two games to one, with Game 4 scheduled for a 7:30 start Wednesday on Comcast SportsNet.