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Posted By Mika Oehling On May 7 2012 @ 10:43 pm In NHL | No Comments
There is no such thing as a comfortable margin in a playoff game. Even 7 seconds is not enough to lock down a win, as the New York Rangers scored within 7 seconds of the final buzzer to tie the game and force overtime. Marc Staal got the winning goal in overtime and now the Rangers take a 3-2 lead in the series over the Washington Capitals.
Joel Ward was the team hero for helping lift the Caps past the Stanley Cup defending champions Boston Bruins in round one, but he was on the other side of the coin in this game, taking a late high sticking penalty that gave the Rangers the chance to mount a comeback with 20 seconds left. Having taken 4 minutes for drawing blood on the play, Ward was still in the box when the game winning goal from Staal came through for a long, slow walk back to the locker room.
The Washington Capitals have done a good job of adapting their game style to New York’s and taking a page out of their book by shot blocking. As a result, the two squads seem to be of the same mind, playing a similar game style and often getting gridlocked on the ice. In some ways, they’re too evenly matched. The result is a high traffic, low scoring game where there’s a lot of movement and little action.
Less is more when it comes to Ovechkin and his ice time, who has been blocking shots, defending and setting up plays. He’s making a better contribution overall on the ice. Brooks Laich is showing why he should have been named the Captain of the Capitals instead of the Russian superstar by playing a heart and soul game. He is a character player and the true difference maker on this team.
Heroics aside, this has been truly a match up of quality goaltenders. Lundqvist speaks for himself, but Holtby was catapulted into the starter position of this playoffs due to injuries. One would never guess that he hasn’t been doing this for years; his poise on the ice is incredible and he’s incredibly aggressive, more often that not, sitting outside his crease to challenge forwards. He’s a high risk player who leaves rebounds when shots actually get through- thankfully, that isn’t very often.
This game could easily have gone either way, just like this series. Both teams have an even chance of taking the series as long as they stay focused and disciplined. And well-rested, as the series risks becoming a long one, like their epic triple overtime game. Ward’s penalty caused Washington to play on their heels and they lost. New York gets a ton of credit for not giving up and persevering. Washington needs to prove its mettle in game six.
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