May 3, 2012
Rangers, Capitals left huffing and puffing
By MIKE GANTER, QMI Agency
The longest hockey game this NHL post-season lasted almost six full periods before New York Rangers sniper Marian Gaborik decided it in the third overtime period, beating Washington Capitals goalie Braden Holtby to give the Rangers a 2-1 win and a 2-1 lead in the series Wednesday.
Holtby and Rangers netminder Henrik Lundqvist were easily the two stars of the game, turning back one attack after another.
Fatigue as much as anything else brought this one to an end as both teams were running on fumes by the end.
The Capitals won't consider it this way, but it was another one of those classic NHL playoff marathons that people will talk about for years.
HUNTER SITTING PRETTY
Dale Hunter is in the perfect position.
He doesnít need his job as Washington Capitals head coach.
If the team opts to let him go and hire themselves the coaching flavour of the month this NHL off-season, Hunterís landing spot is already picked out.
Hunter didnít go looking for this job. The Capitals came to him to fill their coaching vacancy. They found him in London, Ont., where he and brother Mark are overseeing one of the most successful junior hockey franchises in the country.
A man with nothing to lose will follow his instincts and thatís exactly what Hunter is doing.
His instincts told him Ovechkin, as big a star as the Russian might be, didnít necessarily give him the best chance to win. So, Hunter cut Ovechkin's ice time drastically in the first two games of their Eastern Conference semifinal against the Rangers.
Ovie was back to more traditional ice time for a player of his stature Wednesday night, suggesting Hunter may have been sending a message to his captain in Games 1 and 2.
Either way, Hunter did what he felt he had to and the Caps came back to Washington having taken home advantage from the Rangers.
Itís refreshing to see a coach refusing to coddle a superstar, particularly one that hasnít been living up to his reputation.
For that reason alone, the Capitals should bring Hunter back next season.
Great line by Hockey Night in Canada play-by-play man Jim Hughson on Wednesday when he said, ďI just saw something I donít think I have ever seen: Alex Ovechkin skating backwards in the neutral zone and defendingĒ ... Ovechkin was finally starting to look like the Ovechkin of old but there was a difference. Sure he was getting the ice time and jumping into the rush like many of us remember him doing when he was playing well, but the Rangers were having plenty of success putting the body on the speedy Russian. In the past, Ovechkin would power through the hit, leaving his opponent laid out. But the Rangers are not shying away from him and seem to be hitting Ovechkin every chance they get ... Not sure if Ron MacLean wasnít on his game or what. Maybe the guy talking in his ear didnít give him the proper heads up. But the CBC cut to commercial right in the middle of one of Don Cherryís rants during Coach's Corner. Thatís just not right. Someone ought to lose their citizenship over that gaffe ... At the risk of losing my own standing in my native land, I have to disagree with Grapes with regards to the benching of Nashville Predators forwards Alexander Radulov and Andrei Kostitsyn for Wednesday's Game 3 against the Phoenix Coyotes. Grapes, of course, is going against the grain and saying that under no circumstances do you bench players in the playoffs. Cherry suggested there are other ways to handle these playoff indiscretions but didnít offer any. A team that doesnít nip this kind of behaviour in the bud when it happens is asking for trouble. Let it go and two players off on their own agenda soon becomes four, then eight and eventually a whole team. Cherry made the point that a benching would have no effect on a pair of Russians. But this wasnít about punishing a couple of rogue players. It was sending a message to the players that, regardless of your on-ice abilities, no one is bigger than the team.
FROM THE HASH MARKS
How ironic that the Capitals' first goal, which was a goal-scorerís goal, was scored by a defenceman. Not only did John Carlson score the game-tying marker for Washington, he did it within reach of at least four Rangers and beat goalie Henrik Lundqvist with a perfect shot ... It wasnít quite Amaríe Stoudemire putting his fist through the glass, but Rangers captain Ryan Callahan going after Capitals forward Matt Hendricks and earning himself a minor canít happen in the playoffs. With the game tied 1-1 and the Capitals gaining momentum, Callahan laid the lumber on Hendricks. It was an easy call for the officials but a tense couple of minutes for the Rangers who killed the penalty off ... Capitals forward Jay Beagle may not be Ovechkinís offensive equal, but when he has a clear shot from the slot, he has to take it. With about five minutes left in the second period, Beagle had an opening but tried to make a low percentage pass instead and wound up turning the puck over ... Hendricks probably got more attention in Wednesdayís Game 3 than he has at any point in his pro career. From Hughson to MacLean and Cherry, the men who brought you last nightís game from Washington couldnít say enough about Hendricks. The Capitals forward's middle name must be "freight train" or all the talking heads got together in advance of the game and gave him that moniker. Hendricks hit everything that moved and a few Rangers that didnít. Ryan McDonagh was on the receiving end of a hellacious Hendricks body check. McDonagh got up slowly but didnít miss a shift. We donít know how ... Barry Trotz may not be done with Radulov and Kostitsyn. The Predators coach told reporters at the morning skate he was leaning towards keeping the pair out of the lineup for Game 4 Friday. The fact that the Predators won Wednesday night by a 2-0 score should only make it easier to stick ... Classy move by new Montreal Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin to acknowledge the chance former Chicago Blackhawks GM Dale Tallon took on him when Bergevin hung up his skates and moved and into his off-ice career. Too many guys forget the guys who helped get them there.