As I walked into the Verizon Center for tonight's do or die contest (after I almost had to hip-check some dork in an Avery jersey who was taking his Sunday stroll in addition to wearing an Avery jersey), I felt the kind of nerves you got when you went on your first date back in high school!
We all know what had to be done tonight - and the boys did it! The last team to come back from 3-1 to win a series was 2004, when Montreal beat Boston in seven games.
Noticeably absent from Ranger warm ups was the uber-pest himself, Sean Avery. And present for the warm ups was Caps' gritty captain Chris Clark - could this be the night we see him back in action? Once I got my roster in the press box, the answer was on the sheet: no Avery, no Clark. From where I sit, Torts had no choice but to bench the goon but we'll miss his penalty gifts!
Caps saw their first power play on a hooking call on Scottie Gomez merely 2 minutes in. Shortly thereafter, Brian Pothier went to the box after tripping Nik Antropov. And the Caps went on to do what they needed to when Matt Bradley broke free and roofed one over King Henrik - short-handed! This place went wild. The last Capital to score a shorty in a playoff game was Steve Konowalchuk on 4/19/2000 in a 3-2 win against the hated Penguins!
The Rangers then took a too many men on the ice call with about ten minutes left and the home team was on yet another power play. And lo and behold Matt Bradley is ON FIRE - roofing ANOTHER ONE! Rock on with your bad self! And tonight marked Bradley's first ever playoff goal (make that 2 goals in 2 shots)! Varly made an unbelievable save on Brandon Dubinsky late in third throwing his body outside the right side of the net.
The crowd went nutso after that save and then again after they showed Uncle Ted rocking out with "more cowbell" on the jumbotron! And another interesting note, the Caps' penalty killers held the Rangers to no shots on goal in their first two power plays. The boys went into the locker room at the end of the first with a 2-0 lead.
At 15:03 into the second period, Alex Semin had the deke of the week on Henrik Lundqvist for his fourth goal of the playoffs and the Cap's third goal of the night which set off loud roars of "Henrik Henrik" from the rowdy crowd. Varlamov's instincts and quick glove hand held the Rags scoreless through the second. With less than 20 seconds left in the second period, Alex the Great made a play we'll be seeing on every sports network highlight reel this side of the Atlantic as he faked out two Rangers and scored one on
Lundqvist. Wanna see it again?
End of the second: Caps 4 - Rangers 0.
The King was dethroned going into the third period after allowing 4 goals on 14 shots, replaced by Rangers' back up netminder Stephen Valiquette. Things got heated after a Caps' attempt on Valiquette resulted in a scrum and all the Rangers piled on top of the Caps and their goalie. Blueshirt Brandon Dubinsky got real brave and was yapping at the Donald. Brashear took a 10-minute misconduct for his part while Dubinsky got a 2-minute trip to the sin bin.
Hockey Mom is going to take a sidebar here and give a bit of a lecture. During the third period someone among the Caps faithful took it upon themselves to throw a beer (or something) on Rangers' coach John Tortorella. Seriously? Act like you've been out before - we rag on the Flyers and Rangers fans for doing the very same thing. If you want to act like that outside the arena that's your business but there's no need for that kind of behavior. How would we feel if Rangers' fans did that to Gabby? Not cool and I'm sure that Ted Leonsis will have something to say about it as well. Now Torts lost his cool as well and retaliated by throwing a water bottle into the stands and waving a hockey stick, actions which will probably be reviewed by the NHL. Basically the entire Rangers club lost their cool towards the end, even without their instigator in the lineup.
So anyhoo, that's my manners lesson for today for what it's worth - now back to the game. After the scrum with Brash, Dubinsky seemed to get frustrated and took a roughing call with about 7 minutes left. The Caps had yet another power play but were unable to convert. The Rangers' Colton Orr and Aaron Voros continued to unravel as Orr took a 10-minute misconduct with 4 minutes to go and Voros took 2 penalties as well.
In the end, the Caps did everything they needed to do to ensure a Game 6 - fabulous effort all around!
In the post-game press conference, Gabby praised the efforts of Matt Bradley (calling him an unsung hero and commenting on his hard work) and young goalie Varlamov, in addition to AO of course, joking that he "might play Alex another shift come Sunday." He also reiterated the fact that the Rangers will be ready for Game 6, noting that when he saw the first Bradley goal go in his thoughts were "Uh oh, he's (Lundvquist) gonna be great on Sunday."
So a huge Hockey Mom high five to the boys for bringing it all tonight!MSG is gonna be wild tomorrow - let's see some more CAPITALS hockey!