You have to give credit to the Washington Capitals. After suffering a potentially devastating overtime loss in Game 5 to the New York Rangers, the Capitals, with their season on the line, bounced back in Game 6 with a 2-1 win, to tie the series at three games apiece thus forcing a seventh and deciding game on Saturday night.
The Capitals are now 4-0 after losing in overtime the previous game, which shows this team knows how to battle adversity. They can also thank goalie Braden Holtby, who was brilliant between the pipes for Washington. The relative unknown, at least before the playoffs, stopping 30 out of 31 shots, many of them in the spectacular variety. Holtby was particularly good in the third period while the Caps were in their defensive mode, trying to hang on to a 2-0 lead. His glove save on Marian Gaborik with under 5 minutes to go in the third period was a thing of beauty, and a lead candidate for highlight of the night.
The Caps came out roaring in the opening period, forcing a Rangers penalty, then capitalizing as Alexander Ovechkin one-timed a Nicklas Backstrom pass off Henrik Lundqvist’s glove for his fifth of the playoffs just 88 seconds into the game. The Rangers did try to come back, but were thwarted by Holtby and the stifling trap the Capitals have utilized throughout the playoffs.
The second period saw more of the same as the Rangers could not penetrate the Capitals blue line. Midway through the period, the Capitals trap forced a neutral zone turnover, which led to Jason Chimera’s fourth of the playoffs as he converted a lovely feed from Backstrom, who recorded his second assist of the game. The Rangers had their best opportunity late in the second as Jeff Halpern took a double minor for high sticking. But the Rangers power play, which was so effective in Game 5, misfired in Game 6 as Holtby and the Caps held firm.
The third period saw the Rangers trying to become more aggressive, but couldn’t get by the Capitals stern defence. Only Gaborik’s fourth of the playoffs with 50.5 seconds remaining spoiled Holtby’s shutout bid. The Capitals killed off the remainder of the clock to preserve the win, and Holtby’s exceptional performance.
The blocked shot continues to be an ongoing trend in this series. The Capitals were terrific in that regard, blocking 24 shots while the Rangers only had 6 blocked shots. The Rangers will have to adjust to the Capitals going flat-out in front of the shot, by being more patient and moving around the defender to get the shot through. They may also want to try cross seam passes to open up space between the shooter and goalie.
Game 7 will take place Saturday night at Madison Square Garden. Start time is 7:30 EST.
1. Braden Holtby
2. Alexander Ovechkin
3. Jason Chimera