There had been some criticism laid towards Marian Gaborik in the playoffs. Despite leading the New York Rangers with 41 goals this season, Gaborik had only tallied one marker so far in the playoffs. Fans and media had questioned whether Gaborik was crumbling under the pressure of the playoffs. But tonight, Gaborik delivered in a marathon.
The Slovakian star scored his second goal of the playoffs at 14:41 of the third overtime to give the Rangers a 2-1 victory over the Washington Capitals, and take a 2-1 lead in the Eastern Conference Semi-Final. Gaborik’s goal was set up by Brad Richards, who knocked down a clearing attempt, skated behind the net, and slipped a pass to Gaborik, who was alone in front of the net. Gaborik neatly tucked it in through the five hole of Braden Holtby to give the Rangers victory.
The game started off with the Caps carrying the play, and getting the chances. The Rangers defence, usually solid, was leaky early on, giving up odd man rushes. But Henrik Lundqvist kept the Rangers in it with some timely goaltending. The Rangers defence also came through with their speciality, the blocked shot, which frustrated the Capitals at every turn.
The second period did see some offence as the Rangers opened the scoring on the power play. Ryan Callahan got the game’s first goal as he directed home a loose puck past Holtby, after a Michael Del Zotto point shot was tipped to the front of the net. The Caps evened the score midway through the period as John Carlson picked the corner from the slot.
The third period saw teams trade chances, but no one could convert. In overtime the Caps had the two best chances early on. Matt Hendricks ran over Ryan McDonagh behind the Ranger net, then set up Troy Brouwer who was all alone. Brouwer shot the puck too high as he was aiming for the top corner. Then Alexander Ovechkin pounced on a loose puck in the slot, only to hit the post and stay out.
The second overtime saw the action lag, as both teams started to tire out. The third overtime started the same and it looked like it would go on all night, until Gaborik found the net.
This was a heartbreaking loss for Washington. They had the chances but couldn’t bury them. Too many times the Capitals look for the perfect play, the one time shot. The Capitals have to learn that sometimes, they just have to put the puck towards the net, and score the ugly goal. For the Rangers, they regain home ice advantage, and their top scorer regains his confidence. This might be the boost the Rangers need. Game 4 is set for Saturday afternoon at the Verizon Centre.
Ovechkin did see more ice time tonight. The Great Eight saw 30:00 of ice, by far the most of the season for him. Meanwhile, props to McDonagh for playing a game high 53:21. He will be one tired boy and I hope they give him a day off tomorrow.
1. Marian Gaborik
2. Henrik Lundqvist
3. Braden Holtby