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It starts with one: Rangers stay alive and take down the Caps in overtime

Bobby Bevilacqua

Rangers team huddle 5-8

The Rangers celebrate after Ryan McDonagh’s overtime winner guaranteed another game for the blueshirts, and another shot at a playoff win on Sunday. Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

Less than three minutes remained in an elimination game for the Rangers at Madison Square Garden. The atmosphere was tense as the fans and players were sensing the possibility of a season ending too soon. With less than two minutes in a must-win game, Henrik Lundqvist started heading to the bench for the extra.

Chris Kreider’s one timer with just 1:41 remaining in the first period sent the Garden faithful into a frenzy, tying the game and momentarily saving their season. And in overtime, it was the captain Ryan McDonagh, on the team’s 43rd shot of the game, blowing the roof off of Madison Square Garden once more, and helping the Rangers live to fight another day. Game 6 is scheduled for Sunday, May 10th at 7 PM in Washington D.C.

With the win, the Rangers now have a nine-game win streak when facing elimination at home, which is a new NHL record. All 10 games that the Rangers have played in the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs have had one-goal margins. The last 12 playoff games for the Rangers have been decided by one goal, dating back to Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals against the Los Angeles Kings. This is the longest such streak in Stanley Cup Playoffs history.

Coming into the game with their backs against the wall, the Rangers did everything they were supposed to do, and were eventually rewarded for it. They poured the shots on net, got more traffic in front of Holtby, and kept their style of play simpler, all while defending guys like Alex Ovechkin very well.

rangers vs capitals board battle 5-8

The Rangers matched the Capitals physicality, simplified their game plan, got more traffic in front, and were rewarded wjth a few bounces of their own. Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

 

Like most of the series, the Rangers have been the better team at even strength, outshooting and out-chancing the Capitals in nearly every game. Braden Holtby has been the difference maker in this series, with another tremendous performance tonight, but the Rangers were finally able to get some bounces go their way in the win

Also like every other game in this series, both netminders had virtuoso performances. Braden Holtby was absurd tonight, putting on another other-worldly performance for the Capitals. Washington didn’t block as many shots as they have in previous games, leaving a lot of work for Holtby. He was up to the task, finishing with 41 saves, but it wasn’t enough in the end.

While Henrik Lundqvist did not face the same quality or quantity of shots in the game, he still put forth yet another remarkable performance, most notably his 13 save first period. Coming into this game, Lundqvist was 8-2 in his previous 10 elimination games, with a 1.22 GAA and a .964 save percentage.  Just one goal allowed and a .966 save percentage in this game continued that trend of success in must win games.

henrik lundqvist 5-8

Henrik Lundqvist was strong in net again, allowing just one goal, giving him eight consecutive games with two goals or less allowed. Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

 

He has also allowed two goals or less in eight consecutive playoff games, the first time that he has done that in his career. He continues to be an extremely steady force in net, and a huge reason why the Rangers get to play in a Game 6.

The first period saw a lot of actions, beginning with a flurry of Rangers chances. You could see that they were playing with desperation, pushing for the first goal and truly playing like their season was on the line. The Rangers had a three-on-one chance early, but too much passing prevented a shot on goal.

Martin St. Louis had a golden opportunity at the side of the net after Rick Nash flung the puck through the crease, but he could not elevate the puck, and Holtby made a remarkable left pad save to keep the Rangers off of the board. On their first power play opportunity of the game, the Rangers built momentum by mustering five shots on goal, as well as a Martin St. Louis shot that hit the outside of the post.

martin st. louis robbed by Holtby 5-8

Braden Holtby shut the door on St. Louis’ rebound opportunity in the first pad, kicking out the left pas to deny his “slam dunk” chance in the crease. Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

 

The Rangers were quickly up 11-2 in shots, but the Capitals were able to claw their way back into the game. Henrik Lundqvist answered the call on the power play, denying Curtis Glencross’ one timer in tight to the net.

The second period definitely had more Rangers chances, with the Capitals limited to just five shots on goal in those 20 minutes. Derick Brassard may have had the best chance, looking at an open net following a rebound off of a Tanner Glass shot on goal, but Mike Green made an amazing play to reach his stick back and deflect the puck just over the net, leaving Brassard looking up at the famous Madison Square Garden ceiling.

Martin St. Louis was robbed AGAIN in the second period by Braden Holtby 7:08 into the period. Derick Brassard saucered a gorgeous pass to St. Louis in the low slot, and he got a good amount of power behind the shot, but Holtby made a fantastic reactionary glove save to keep the Rangers off the board. JT Miller was denied a goal by defenseman Matt Niskanen sweeping Miller’s stuff in try off the line following Chris Kreider’s wrist shot.

It appeared that the Capitals were going to be credited with a goal, but it was immediately waved off by the officials. As the puck deflected off of a body in front of the net of Lundqvist, Ward was battling with Ryan McDonagh right in front of the net, and Ward was draped over Lundqvist, preventing him from making a save.

The frustration and tension grew inside of in the third period, as the chances continued to mount for the Rangers, but the goals did not. They had five of the first six shots in the period, and Stepan had a tremendous chance at 8:15 of the period. Kreider set up Stepan alone in front, but Holtby smartly came out of the crease to challenge him, leaving little room to shoot and deflecting the puck wide with his glove.

derek stepan 5-8

Derek Stepan finished the game with two primary assists, but not before getting shut down by Holtby in the third period. Stepan had one of his better games tonight. Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

 

Then about 11 minutes into the period, with the Rangers pushing heavily for a goal, the Capitals scored what seemed like a crushing goal. Kevin Klein’s attempted shot was stopped on a great play by Tom Wilson, who took Klein and Hagelin out of the play. Keith Yandle, the last defender, made a poor decision to aggressively pinch in, and Matt Niskanen hit Curtis Glencross for a 2-on-0 breakaway for the Capitals. His initial shot was saved by Lundqvist, but Glencross was able to poke it over Lundqvist and into the back of the net, stunning Madison Square Garden.

Shut out by Braden Holtby for nearly 112 minutes, with the final seconds of their season ticking away, Vigneault made the move to pull Henrik Lundqvist. Keith Yandle sent Derek Stepan into the zone with a long stretch pass that was tipped in by Kreider. Stepan carried it deep before circling and dropping it off for Kreider, who blasted a one timer off of Bruce Orpik’s skate and past Holtby, tying the game at one in the dying minutes.

Lundqvist made sure the game got to overtime, denying Jason Chimera on two wrist shots close to the crease with less than 30 seconds remaining. The Rangers finally got the bounce they needed and were heading to overtime.

Carl Hagelin nearly had another overtime winner, but Braden Holtby’s glove denied his wrist shot through Dominic Moore’s screen. But with the Rangers pushing, they were able to break through with the winner.

Jesper Fast started the play, impressively knocking a pass out of midair in the neutral zone and carrying it back into the Capitals’ zone. He then split three Washington players with a pass to Derek Stepan. Rather than shoot, he dropped it back to Ryan McDonagh and Chris Kreider was coming in as a screen. Holtby admittedly lost sight of the puck, and McDonagh’s one-timer went off of Capitals defenseman Tim Gleason and into the back of the net, sending the Rangers to D.C. with a win.

ryan mcdonagh overtime goal celebration 5-8

Ryan McDonagh celebrates after scoring the overtime winner in Game 5, giving the Rangers a chance to continue their season in Game 6. Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

 

This was a game that the Rangers deserved to tie up and win. Yes, Holtby was magnificent, but the Rangers had a lot more quality chances, possession and shots on goal than the Capitals. Everything about this game screamed Rangers’ hockey, barring some portions of the game.

I was impressed with the defense in this game again. There were not really any sloppy turnovers that led to scoring chances or goals, except for the bad pinch from Yandle. Other than that, they limited Ovechkin to just two shots on goal, and taking the top line out of the game for the most part. After the first two games, Ovechkin has not nearly been as dominant, and wasn’t all that noticeable in Game 5. Defense has not been a problem in this series, and all six guys were solid again today.

While all four lines had their chances and were good in the game, the second line of Chris Kreider, Derek Stepan and Jesper Fast stole the show.

Put together before Game 2, this line has really grown into one of the Rangers more consistent lines in this series. Stepan and Kreider have played together for a long time, and naturally work well together, and Jesper Fast continues to grow and impress me with each passing game. Whenever he has been called upon to step up and play a more offensive game, Fast has done exactly that. His play on the game winner was world class, showcasing his hands and talent. The second line was responsible for both goals, and put on a fantastic performance tonight when the team needed it most.

The next must win game is on Sunday, when the Rangers will look to really plant a seed of doubt into the Capitals head and bring the series back to Madison Square Garden for a Game 7.

THREE STARS

1) Ryan McDonagh – 1 G, +2, 4 BS, 25:12 TOT

2) Henrik Lundqvist – 28 SV, .966 SV%

3) Chris Kreider – 1 G, +2, 6 HT, 21:44 TOT

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Posted on May 9, 2015, in Game Recaps and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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