The Washington Capitals came out swinging tonight in Game One against the New York Rangers, exhibiting the energy and physicality that was missing the last few weeks of the regular season. It was great to see Boyd Gordon and Tom Poti back on the bench, though Brash was a healthy scratch. Captain Chris Clark may return before series end as well.
Though both teams remained scoreless throughout the first period, the Caps played hard and fast, leading the Rags in both shots on goal and hits (including a wizbanger of a hit from Professor Matt Bradley who gave one of the blueshirts his own version of a physics lesson)! Defensively, the boys tightened it up as well in the first.
But come the second period, things started getting really interesting. The men in red got on the board first, with a goal from Ovie that was eventually credited to Tomas Fleischmann. But less than a minute later, the Caps' defense allowed an unassisted goal from the Ranger's Scott Gomez. And of course Sean Avery was up to his old tricks which included slewfooting Mike Green and cross-checking Jose Theodore (after the whistle no less).
I have to add a sidebar on Avery here. HM has long been an admirer of sportswriter Sally Jenkins and she summarized the "Avery factor" perfectly in today's Washington Post. And good on the home team for not playing into Avery's head games and taking foolish retaliation penalties. But some of the officiating was seriously questionable - I thought Don Koharski retired last week?
The Blueshirt's trade aquisition Nik Antropov got on the board next for the visitors, followed by former Vancouver Canuck (and Sedin twins' team mate) Markus Nasland.
But big man Viktor Kozlov lit the lamp for his first playoff goal of his NHL career to cut the Ranger's lead to 1 goal. Fellow sniper Alex Semin, assisted by Ovie and the hawk-rocking Green, tied the game at 3-3. Jeff Schultz unfortunately made a gaffe of killer proportions late in the third as he coughed up the puck to youngster Brandon Dubinsky, who scored the game-winning goal for the Rangers.
Overall, it was a strong effort for the home team. They are going to have to crash the net (that's you Brooksie) and take some serious advantage of rebounds to beat the guy with the big pads Henrik Lundqvist. And in his post-game press conference Gabby said that some changes are a'coming for Game Two - we'll have to wait and see.