The Washington Capitals have truly become the honey badgers of the NHL. Why? Because, just like the honey badger, the Caps are at their most dangerous when they’re cornered. Still stubbornly refusing to die, the Capitals downed the Rangers 2-1 to force a deciding game seven in New York.
In stark contrast to their lackluster start in game five, the Caps came out flying to start the first period. Jason Chimera, utilizing his elite speed, drew a tripping penalty from New York’s Anton Stralman at 1:13 and, just fifteen seconds into the power play, Alex Ovechkin would come through. Taking a pass into the slot from (who else?) Nicklas Backstrom, Ovechkin fired the puck above Henrik Lundqvist’s glove and into the back of the net (5, assists: Nicklas Backstrom, Mike Green). Braden Holtby, who would have his finest performance of the series thus far (30 saves), would stop all eleven Rangers shots he faced in the first period.
At 10:59 of the second period, the Capitals would take a rare two goal lead when Jason Chimera tapped in a deflected puck in front the Rangers’ net. The insurance goal was Chimera’s fourth of the playoffs (assists: Nicklas Backstrom, John Carlson). The Capitals would fully break the Rangers’ competitive spirit after killing off Jeff Halpern’s four minute high sticking double minor between 12 and 16:05 of the period. The Rangers had their chances after their long power play sputtered but it was plain to see that their hearts were only marginally in it from there on out.
Marian Gaborik would score (4, assists: Dan Girardi, Derek Stepan) at 19:09 of the third period to spoil Holtby’s shutout. Fortunately though, for the Caps and their fans, that is all he did. Unlike in game five, the Caps would close the game out, extending the series to Saturday.
Winning a game seven on the road is the hardest thing to do in playoffs. It should be an encouraging sign to Caps fans, however, that they have already done it once in these playoffs. If the Capitals can come out strong and dictate the pace as they did in game six, they should have a date with the Devils in the conference finals. However, should the Caps start as they did in game five, their season could very well meet an end Saturday night in Manhattan.
In an interesting side note, the game six victory make the Capitals the first team in NHL history to win four playoff games directly following overtime losses.