Unlikely hero Matt Bradley scored two goals and Simeon Varlamov recorded his second shutout in three games as the Caps dominated the Rangers in a 4-0 victory to force Game 6 in New York on Sunday Afternoon.
Bradley started the scoring about five minutes into the first period while the Capitals were on the penalty kill. After poking the puck free from a Rangers’ ‘D’ man, Bradley put the puck top shelf on the backhand for his first career playoff goal. He didn’t have to wait long for his second career goal either. Bradley -who had five goals in 81 games this year- skated up the right boards and found a way to beat Henrik Lundqvist on a goal that Henrik would probably like to have back. And just like that, Washington was up by two with just over 12 minutes gone by in the first.
Lundqvist was not his dominant usually self, and the highly-motivated Capitals did not let up in the second period. After a face-off win by Nicklas Backstrom, Alexander Semin sniped his fourth goal of the playoffs. Another goal in the first five minutes of the period gave them the insurance they were looking for.
The fourth and final goal provided the excitement that finished off an impressive performance by the Caps. A name that we have not heard from in this series is the world’s best player, Alex Ovechkin. That all changed tonight. Ovechkin took the puck up the left wing late in the second period. As the fans rose to their feet, you knew something special was going to happen. As he entered the offensive zone, Ovi jumped around Chris Drury and cut back towards the outside while putting the puck through Derrick Morris‘ feet (who had grabbed Michal Rozsival‘s stick from the bench after his shattered on a slap shot). While Aaron Voros was chasing Ovechkin down, AO dived forward and scored far-side on his backhand. This ranks up there with his goal against Montreal and against Buffalo in terms of scoring while on knocked off his feet.
Here are some additional notes on tonight’s game:
- Sean Avery was a healthy scratch. Avery has 24 PIM in four game.
- Rangers’ coach John Tortorella received a pre-mature shower from a Capitals’ fan sitting behind him. After the fan poured his beer on Tortorella, the coach has to be restrained by an assistant after picking up a stick and pointing it at the fan. Robin Flicker (according to Dan Steinburg) was escorted out of the buliding.
- Lundqvist sat out the thrid to rest as backup Stephen Valiquette stopped all seven shots he faced.
- After slapping the puck out of mid-air into the net, it was ruled that Mike Green made contact with his stick while the puck was still above the cross-bar, nullifying the goal.
- In three games, Donald Brashear has more PIM (14), then he does TOI (11:11).
- It was the first time that Eric Fehr led the Capitals in shots (6) since February 14th.
- Varlamov (Remember: it rhymes with Nabokov) recorded the first home shutout in the playoffs by a Caps’ netminder since 2001. He joins Olie Kolzig as the only Capitals goalies to record two shutouts in the same series. (Kolzig did it in 1998 against Ottawa).