Dubbed as the NHL’s “enigma” all season long, it can be guaranteed the Washington Capitals are hardly boring: after coming back from a 3-0 deficit against the New York Rangers on the road, the Capitals took Game 4 in style winning 4-3 in double overtime off of a lucky bounce for Jason Chimera that finally went their way.
After a scoreless first period where the Capitals seemed to have the upper hand, the Rangers began to gain the momentum as the Caps seemed to let up defensively and gave New York opportunities up the middle and allowed them to cluster in front of the net in front of Caps goaltender Michal Neuvirth. Not too long after the Rangers caught up to Washington in shots, the Blueshirts put their first puck in the net five minutes into the second frame.
About eight minutes later, the Capitals defense was nowhere to be found as Ruslan Fedotenko backhands a pass to Marian Gaborik to bank in a tap-in goal before Neuvirth could get to the other post.
Seven seconds later, Brandon Dubinsky put a slapshot on Neuvirth and the puck ended up in the back of the net.The seven-second span between Ranger goals was the fastest time between scoring the Capitals ever allowed in the playoffs.
Down 3-0 entering the third period, the Caps had quite the mountain to climb. But for those who worried about how the team can win just on defense and no offense, their concerns were quelled for the moment. Washington’s Alex Semin and Marcus Johansson scored two goals 57 seconds apart in under four minutes into the final regulation period. Johansson scored again around the 12-minute mark of the third to tie the game at three-all.
The Caps regained the upper hand in the game, and finally got a lucky bounce their way, as Jason Chimera took advantage of a Marian Gaborik turnover still in the New York defensive zone, and completed the comeback to put the game away and put the Capitals up three games to one in the series.
Despite stopping multiple chances for Washington, including an Alex Ovechkin breakaway, and a 43 save performance Henrik Lundqvist is now 1-5 in playoff overtime situations after Wednesday night’s loss. However, it certainly does not help that his last two losses resulted from careless turnovers in the defensive zone by two of the Rangers’ top players, Marc Staal and Gaborik, that the Capitals were able to take advantage of for a win.
There were many questions coming into the playoffs wondering if a lead did get out of hand for the opposing team, would the Capitals be able to score enough goals to get back within the game. As seen in Wednesday night’s win for the Caps, if they need to score and if they allow themselves the opportunities to score, then they will be more than able to get enough pucks in the net. It shows the same ability they had all season long to be able to find ways to win; whether they need to hold a lead or if they need to come from behind.
“I think we all started to play together,” adds Johansson about the comeback. “Everybody got better and everybody bought into what we’re going to do.”
Johansson continued, “We got pucks to the net and we got people there. That’s how we got a couple of goals, and that’s how we’re going to get goals in the future, too.”
The first step in the Caps comeback was their success in cutting down the string of penalties that caused their squad to get worn down in Game 3. With more offensive opportunities and less time stuck in their own zone on the penalty kill, the Caps were able to get offensive breaks and to have chances to get the puck deep in New York’s zone.
Another reason a comeback was possible in Game 4 where it was not in Game 3 was the heightened physicality. Washington picked up the pace and physicality significantly from Game 3, where they were outhit 41-29. While the Caps were outhit again in Game 4, they still put on 59 hits and won many of the scrums and battles for the puck in the corners. Keeping the Rangers on their toes and forcing them off the puck was huge for the Caps to win.
Finally, the fact that the Capitals settled down after that tumultuous second period showed a much less fragile team and a team that is definitely better than previous seasons in the playoffs. The Caps went back to the stifling defense displayed in Games 1 and 2, which kept the Rangers from getting too many scoring chances later in the game. And as always, Michal Neuvirth stayed strong. Washington has a 4-4 record when they hold a 3-1 series lead, but lost that lead as recent as last season, but the character of this season’s Capitals doesn’t seem to show a likelihood to falter this time.
As far as the Rangers are concerned, “We looked nervous,” Rangers head coach John Tortorella said. “We felt better once we got through [the third period] and got to overtime. We still had chances we didn’t make.”
If the Rangers have any hope to avoid elimination, they will have to convert on those opportunities and get pucks past the Capitals’ defense. Even though the Rangers were in the top five teams in the regular season in blocked shots, the Capitals lead all playoff teams in blocked shots with 85. Washington’s top ranked defense and still with potent offensive players should be able to put away the Rangers, but New York is still an extremely resilient team and the Capitals should know better by now not to assume victory.
Caps head coach Bruce Boudreau says of the Rangers in preparation for Game 5, “There’s no doubt in my mind with two days off, they’re going to regroup, and if we think we’ve got this won by any stretch of the imagination, we’re in deep trouble.” Boudreau continued, “I think we were in this situation a little while ago.”
Game 5 will be back in Washington, D.C. Saturday, April 23 and will be shown on NBC at 3 p.m.
Notes: Mike Knuble did not play in Game 4, and according to Capitals Insider’s Katie Carrera, his status for Game 5 is “uncertain”… Wednesday’s double OT thriller was the fifth longest game in Capitals playoff history.