In a game full of unusual bounces, the New York Rangers took advantage of the opportunities and were able to take Game 3 from the
Washington Capitals on home ice, 3-2.
Even though the Capitals sounded ready for this game and expected the Rangers to throw everything including the kitchen sink at them, it seemed as though the Caps may have underestimated New York’s desperation in this Game 3. As a result, the Rangers, with the help of some lucky bounces from being in front of Caps’ goalie Michal Neuvirth, were able to snag a win in the series.
One failure in Washington’s game was that the Caps spent a lot of time in the penalty box. While the Capitals were able to obtain four power play opportunities, with which they scored two goals, they allowed the Rangers eight chances with the man advantage. During the in-game interview with NBC’s Darren Pang, Caps head coach Bruce Boudreau called the officiating “ticky-tacky”, and many watching the game questioned the disparity between Capitals and Rangers power play opportunities. Caps top-line center even argued that most of the penalties that were called “weren’t penalties” However, at this point, there is no good in complaining about the officiating, and the Caps were caught in the trap that I warned about in my series preview: the Rangers can master being physical without being penalized, and that would be crucial for the Caps to do the same. After all, according to Russian Machine Never Breaks‘ Neil Greenberg, Washington only allowed seven even strength chances. Had the Caps been able to spend less time in the penalty kill, it is likely that they would have been able to hold the Rangers to fewer changes.
The penalties may have been a major factor in the Caps’s loss. But from the onset of the game, the Rangers’ desperation to win before being on the brink of elimination was apparent, especially in the physical and defensive departments. The Blueshirts outhit Washington 41-29. The hits total was the Rangers’ most amount of hits in a game this series while 29 hits were the Capitals’ fewest. Whether that was a testament to the Caps’ lack of intensity or the Rangers’ increased intensity is to be determined. However, it does speak to the number of opportunities the Rangers were allowed to have in this game versus the chances in the previous two games. For Washington to not even come close to matching the hits totals from the last two games does not look good for the trends of this series, and almost shows some slacking off.
Despite the Caps’ failures to control the game, the Rangers certainly had momentum on their side and took advantage of Washington’s failures; thus, allowing New York to set the tone and forcing the Capitals to play their game. In fact, neither a goal or a save, but a Dan Girardi blocked shot late in the first period on an Alex Ovechkin wrister, probably clinched New York’s victory. Girardi went on to block five Caps shots.
The Rangers have been noted as a resilient team, and it has been dubbed as a plus for the Blueshirts in The Hockey Writers‘ own Rich Baiocco’s article from earlier today prior to Game 3. Despite the struggles from Marian Gaborik (and the team as a whole on the year) to score, they have been able to receive help from different players such as Matt Gilroy in Game 1, Brandon Dubinsky, Vinny Prospal and Erik Christensen to fill the Gaborik’s scoring void. This, of course, makes things difficult for the Caps when not only the top players need to score.
In order for the Caps to remain sane for the rest of the series, they will need to return home with one victory from New York by winning Game 4. To return to Washington, D.C. tied at two games apiece after the expectations from media and fans and after last year’s unceremonious exit would be the least appealing result for the Capitals. To help keep the series short for the Caps’ benefit to their team and psyche, winning Game 4 would be in their best interest. Returning to a more physical style, staying out of the box, getting more shots and chances early in the game, and clogging the middle would be things to fix for the next game.
Game 4 will be at Madison Square Garden Wednesday, April 20 at 7 p.m.
Notes: At the end of the second period (under one second left), the New York Rangers had a shot that appeared to be a goal. However, even though the clock on NBC’s broadcast had the shot crossing the line before the buzzer, the official NHL clock had already expired by the time the puck crossed the goal line. Therefore, the goal was disallowed.