Simple mistake can blow it all
Rob Longley, QMI Agency
|Michael Del Zotto of the New York Rangers controls the puck against Mike Green of the Washington Capitals on April 28, 2012 in New York City. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images/AFP)
The trouble with playing the near perfect road game and holding the opposition to just 14 shots is this: A mistake as simple as a blown line change can ruin it all.
It would be an overreaction to place all of the blame for Washington’s 3-1 loss to the Rangers Saturday afternoon at Madison Square Garden on Capitals defenceman Mike Green’s lapse in the third period. But after Green lazily headed to the bench at the worst possible time, he put his team in deep trouble.
Until that point, the game had been all about what the Capitals were doing to throttle down the Rangers attack. Clogging up shooting and passing lanes, blocking shots and frustrating everything the fired-up Ranger were trying to do out of the gate.
Consider that the Rangers went a full 11:04 between their second and third shots of the game and that even though they had more than six minutes of power-play time, managed just 14 shots total.
The Caps had the Blueshirts where they wanted them, until it all turned Green.
When the Caps defenceman headed for the bench for what should have been a routine line change, he was quickly shooed back to the ice as Rangers rookie Chris Kreider was breaking free.
Green had no chance to catch the speedy winger, who blasted the game winner behind Braden Holtby. It may have been the second period, but in a game so tight, it was as good as over.
Proof that you can never really predict how a game is going to unfold was in evidence in St. Louis when the Blues and L.A. Kings stormed out to a high-paced first period combining for 24 shots and a goal apiece. The expected hard-hitting and limited opportunities that had linemakers set the over/under line at 4 1/2 for this game, returned in the second period. And yes, the under still cashed ... Back in New York, less than 90 seconds after the Kreider goal, Rangers centre Brad Richards gave the Rangers a 3-1 lead, the first time in the playoffs that the Caps had trailed by more than a goal ... That ringing in the Capitals ears? That would be the four times they hit either post or crossbar. Put one of those in and good chance it’s a dramatically different result ... When generally conservative L.A. defenceman Matt Greene gave his team the 2-1 lead late in the second on the shorty, it was the third time in six playoff games that the Kings penalty kill chipped in with a goal ... Think this team is built for playoff success? With their 3-1 Saturday night in St. Louis, the Blues have won all four road games this playoff season ... ... Rangers coach John Tortorella called Game 1 a grind and expects much as the series moves along. And what a bruiser it will be - the teams combined for 63 hits, one shy of double the total shots on goal.
Nice finish by Jason Chimera on the Caps first goal with four seconds left in the second, but you won’t find a more picture-perfect saucer pass to set it up than the one by Brooks Laich to set it up. It didn’t hurt that it was a tired Rangers group on the ice as backchecking defenceman Dan Girardi couldn’t keep up. There was more to it than the pass as well. NBC had a great isolation replay of Laich looking up at the clock in the neutral zone, recognizing there was less than 10 seconds remaining ... Caps coach Dale Hunter had a legitimate beef in the second when Anton Stralman tripped Marcus Johansson on a breakaway and both puck and player carried on into the net. Had to be either a penalty or a goal (the former would have been most appropriate) but nothing was called ... The Hunter lockdown approach has got the Caps this far, but when a player like Alex Ovechkin has zero shots through 42 minutes (and just one shot total), are you helping or hurting your chances? When he wasn’t staying on the ice for one of his trademark extended shifts, Ovie seemed to be wasting too much time trying to avoid Rangers defenceman, Dan Girardi, who was matched against him ... Is giving up three goals on 14 shots the end of the storybook that has been Holtby’s playoffs? NBC’s Keith Jones thinks so. “The Capitals have got some work to do to straighten their goaltender out.”
Over to you, Brendan Shanahan: L.A.s Dwight King hitting Blues defenceman Alex Pietrangelo into the end boards late into the second period. King got two minutes for the hit, which looked about right, but will the NHL disciplinarian factor in the apparent injury to the Blues star? ... Check out this stat from Washington Times Caps’ beat writer, Steve Whyno. In 420 regulation-time minutes in the first round, the Caps only trailed the Bruins for 24:23 ... The Alexander Semin retaliation penalty on Ryan Callahan in the first period was as dumb as they come, especially given it game 26 seconds into a Caps power play. But as @Habsinideout1 accurately pointed out on twitter, it is an Olympic year and the diving Ranger was in fine form.