Alex Ovechkin: "It was a tough series"
I must admit, I had a hard time seeing this one coming Monday night. Sure, we’ve all become much too aware of how the Caps have failed to finish-off playoff series in both the distant and the not-so-distant past. But I was certain this time would be different. As it turned out, the Rangers executed a road game to remember and a 5-0 win in the decisive seventh game at Verizon Center.
It’s not that I didn’t think the Rangers were capable of winning four of the last five games in this series, which is how they advanced to round two. My faith came from the way I saw the Caps perform in the first three home games of this quarterfinal.
I thought it would be another tight game. I thought the Caps would find a way to breakthrough Henrik Lundquist.
You could almost feel Verizon Center fans get queasy in the first 6 minutes of the game when Lundquist made a terrific pad stop on a low bullet fired by John Carlson.
That woe-is-me feeling multiplied when Aaron Asham ripped a slapshot through a Jack Hillen-screen, that beat Braden Holtby to the short side over his catching glove.
Alex Ovechkin came out and threw seven hits in the first 20 minutes, destroying enemy skaters along the boards.
The Caps captain finished with a hard-to-imagine 13 hits for the game, but mustered only one shot that reached Lundquist. His offensive game fizzled over the last five games in the series.
Washington failed to connect on a late first-period power play and that led to a bumpy start to period two.
A Steve Eminger point drive caromed off of Derek Dorsett directly to a waiting Taylor Pyatt, who was unattended long enough for a slam-dunk finish and 2-0 lead.
The Rangers would make it three-zip on their next shot on goal. Michael Del Zotto blasted a slapper off the skate of Troy Brouwer. The change of pace and directed helped the puck squirt through Holtby.
Those two goals in 2:10 took a lot of the electricity out of Verizon Center. Those tallies were the catalyst to a dramatic shift of momentum. Lundquist, who blanked the Caps Sunday in New York, had a three-goal lead to protect and had his game in order.
If the Caps were planning to challenge in the third period, all hopes were dashed when Ryan Callahan took advantage of a turnover and scored his first goal of the series only 13 seconds into the final frame. It was the fastest goal to start a period that the Capitals have ever allowed in a playoff game.
Mats Zuccarello tacked on the final blow with a fancy fore-hand deke that beat Holtby with 13:21 remaining regulation.
The Caps would not be as fortunate as Boston was Monday. The Bruins rallied from three-goals down in the third period to punch their ticket into the second round, where they will meet New York.
Washington had 27 shots blocked by Ranger defenders and posted another 35 shots that managed to get through to Lundquist.
The “King” was a royal pain in the neck for the last two games of the series. His consecutive shutouts were impressive.
Since 2008, the Caps have now played five game-sevens at home and dropped four of them, a fact that had them struggling to keep their heads up as time expired.
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